The music of Midnight Sister is haunting and utterly unlike what any other band is going to provide you in 2017. The tunes on the band's new record, Saturn Over Sunset, are simultaneously odd and lovely in equal measure. The album, out as of last Friday on Jagjaguwar, is the sort of thing that I will have a hard time describing in words. But I'm going to try.
A track like "So Young", for instance, is fairly straightforward, even if it sounds like Carly Simon singles from the Seventies overlaid with an instrumental wash that recalls both Jon Brion and Nilsson. Elsewhere, "Leave You" channels both Damon and Naomi and Cocteau Twins even if the overall effect is decidedly hard to pin down; think of this as "eerie AOR", or "showtunes from whatever musical a character in a David Lynch film would be watching", to coin another description. "Blue Cigar" pursues a similar path while the simple and deliberate "The Drought" recalls earlier tracks from His Name Is Alive. If so much of Saturn Over Sunset sounds like the soundtrack to a film or play yet to be made, "Daddy Long Legs" is the big hit single from the show, all bright chords wrapped around a fairly clear hook. The superb "Shimmy" produces the same sort of effect early Broadcast singles produced, while the excellent tracks near the album's end ("Clown", "Their Eyes") are big, aching ballads that achieve a kind of sweetness even as they remain otherworldly, the result one that seems like Peggy Lee crooning a song composed for Julie Cruise.
So much of Saturn Over Sunset is utterly impossible to describe but it's all remarkably easy to absorb and enjoy. Fans of the lush productions offered on old Van Dyke Parks projects will enjoy this record, even while fans of early 4AD stuff will find loads to embrace here. A unique spin on portions of the legacies of those artists and labels, Saturn Over Sunset remains one of the most striking releases of this season.
[Photo: Nicky Giraffe]