No one could accuse the Kilby twins, Miranda and Elektra, of rushing things – it’s taken three years from the release of their debut single Maybe You to reach the point where an entire long player was made available, but here it finally is. And Lucid Dreaming proves to be well worth the wait, a carefully crafted and attentively collated collection of the loveliest music that you’ll hear all year.
The album opens with the glorious Everything We Touch, a track that perfectly encapsulates everything about the band, as it moves from a delicate, if luxuriantly orchestrated, ballad to soaringly anthemic dance floor filler, sliding effortless across genre boundaries as it goes, taking in elements of dance music, shoegazing, electronica and pure, unashamed pop.
Glitter is pure – well, 90% pure – disco fever, aptly enough given the title, sliding into electro pop for the infectious chorus, and maintaining that curious sense of melancholy that underpins much of the best Euro disco and electroclash (the twins are a Swedish/Australian hybrid, and their music reflects this culturally split upbringing, having both a familiarity with and distant from Euro pop). Games for Girls, on the other hand, is pure 1980s flavour bubble gum – cute, catchy and just that little bit enough off-kilter to give it an edge.
If it sounds by this point that Say Lou Lou are simply rehashing the glories of the past, let me reassure you. The band hit enough recognisable triggers to take you back to times and places long gone, but they are no mere imitators. The fact that they blend these influences and ideas into something fresh and affecting. And on tracks like Julian, a tale of cross border love, they create a sound that is entirely their own, a cinematic depth and a haunting atmosphere that is awash with emotional potency and a sense of darkness beneath the passion. Angels Above Me is a fine example of this, an almost kitchen sink daydream that reaches a grandiose style, as is Peppermint, which feels like St Etienne recording a David Lynch soundtrack.
Beloved is the album highlight – hell, one of the musical highlights of the decade, frankly. Opening as an ethereal, dreamy tale of romantic longing before steadily building to crescendo after crescendo in one of the most perfectly crafted slices of pop music that you’ll ever hear, a clash of irresistible dance floor joy and lyrical despair that works as flawlessly as any piece of music I can recall. In a sensible universe, Say Lou Lou are the biggest band on the planet, based entirely on this track.
Hard for a Man (stop that sniggering!) feels like a step back from this masterpiece, but only for a moment. There’s a Eurovision vibe to this track, and I say that as compliment – Sweden really ought to try to persuade the twins to represent them, as their shimmering pop vibe is a perfect fit for what Eurovision should be! Wilder than the Wind has a moodily downbeat feel of a slow pop classic, and Nothing But a Heartbeat returns the album to an anthemic pop vibe as the LP approaches its finale, while closer Skylights is the perfect coda, a shining, sunrise chill out number that has a joy and hopefulness to it that suggests that all the emotional angst of the preceding songs will not be enough to break the narrator (and so, by default, the listener).
Lucid Dreaming is constructed like an emotional journey, pulling you into the emotional highs and lows effectively, even though the actual songs are unconnected – it’s a great example of why albums need to be played intact and in order. The songs will certainly work as stand alone tunes, but the overall impact is so much greater when listened to as intended.
There will be those who find this to be over-produced, and certainly it’s as polished a production as you will ever hear. But I don’t think it takes away from the song craft or the perfectly blended vocals, the emotional clout of the songs or the atmospherics. Rather, it all comes together extremely well, having a grandeur and a beauty that fits the emotionally distant yet still warm voices of the two singers. The result is as satisfying a pop record as you could ever hope to hear, and one I expect will be on constant repeats round Reprobate Towers for some time to come…