‘Lucid Dreaming’ proves to be the perfect title for this debut album from Swedish-Australian sisterly duo Say Lou Lou. And that’s for better or worse, depending on your viewpoint.
Like the album itself, its conception has been something of a slow-burner. First emerging with Maybe You in August 2012 under the name Saint Lou Lou, the girls have undergone a name change, released a string of singles (some of which frustratingly aren’t included here), set up their own record label, and made the BBC Sound of 2014 longlist. Now, in 2015, their debut is finally released. You can’t help but feel they’ve missed the boat a little – where initial reactions were positive and hype built around singles Better In The Dark (2013) and Everything We Touch (2014), the appeal of their music has somewhat simmered and fizzled since then.
As a result, ‘Lucid Dreaming’ doesn’t quite live up to their early promise. The duo have a distinct, ‘dream pop’ style that remains consistent throughout – perhaps too consistent. Each mid-tempo track comes on a wave of soothing, sombre synths and subtle beats, over which the girls sing in hushed, secretive tones. The lack of vocal power is easily misconstrued as being a little soulless, the album overall a languorous, meandering snooze-fest.
That, incidentally, is half of its appeal. Those haunting synths are hypnotic, the soft vocals and gentle rhythms slowly lulling you into a state of lucid dreaming. It’s in this otherworld that the album unfurls and blossoms, subtly shifting from track to track. By the halfway point – the lilting Angels (Above Me) – we are consumed by celestial guitar lines and two angelic voices curling around one another in harmony and unison. From here it all builds towards a climactic crescendo: the stomping beats of Hard For A Man, the glittering pop of Nothing But A Heartbeat and, eventually, the soaring orchestral sounds of closer Skylights that layers on the drama. Only Games For Girls, a collaboration with Norwegian producer Lindstrøm, takes us out of the dream with its staccato production and hand clap beats – brilliant in its own right.
The touching emotion of each track slowly creeps up on you – whilst the dreamscape hits you like a wave, this isn’t an immediate pop album. Yet the yearning melodies of Julian, one of their earliest and best releases, will melt the stoniest of hearts; the central lyric of Beloved (“and if I’m your beloved, then why don’t I fit?”) brings a tear to the eye; and the grand, sweeping basslines of Wilder Than The Wind bring a shiver down the spine before an aching chorus. This isn’t quite the standout electro pop album some may have hoped for, but with tracks like these you won’t want to wake up anytime soon.
* Wilder Than The Wind
Listen: ‘Lucid Dreaming’ is released on 6th April.