A brief identification: Caroline Luftkin was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan, and studied composition in Boston at Berklee School of Music. After moving to Tokyo upon graduation, she worked recording demo vocals for J-pop wannabes and was eventually offered a lucrative major label deal which she declined—in her own words, “They had this vision of me, and I didn’t like that. All my songs were turning into J-pop techno songs.” Instead, she opted to move to Los Angeles where she sent Temporary Residence Ltd. a link to her songs on My Space. She was signed and a single was released, “Where’s My Love” in prelude to this, her debut album Murmurs. Her songs have been roundly referred to as “snow jams” and while they do have the capacity to induce the visionary state of that
…listener who listens in the snow,
and, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is
They are also infused with a saccharine sentimentality that may, quite understandably, chafe the sensibilities of certain listeners. That is to say, some of the vocals ring with a precious adolescence and that the dreamland evoked by its union with the subdued electronics of Norwegian producer Andreas Bjorck exists somewhere in between the blithe wonderland of childhood daydreams and the twin preoccupations, romantic love and hormonal alienation, of many a forlorn teenage girl.
Murmurs is bookended by “Bicycle” and “Winter,” perhaps its two most enchantingly whimsical songs. The first centers on a single memory, as suggested by the title, a bicycle, and cradles the wide-eyed melancholia of her voice in soft electronic pulses and elegiac trumpets. The longing for childhood wonder expressed in the lyric is neatly wed to an arrangement, which has the affect of reactivating that wonder in the listener. It is a perfect song for looking out on snow caked cities blurred through the fogged glass of street tram windows, simple and infinitely suggestive. With its refrain of “If we hold on to each other, life would be so sweet/If we hold on to each other, life would be complete,” “Winter” feels, in its innocent way, like a meditation on the fragility of human happiness. It is at once, sonically speaking, solemn and hopeful, aware of difficulty and resigned to perseverance.
Among the rest, two particular songs stand out: “Pink and Black,” which swings from moody and chiming to buoyant electro-pop, and the album’s first single, “Where’s My Love,” which bubbles with pixilated yearning, bum-bum-bum-bums and tinkling piano keys. Charming in its lullabying sentiment, playful in its naiveté, it avoids the lukewarm innocuousness into which “I’ll Leave My Heart Behind” and “All I Need” fall. Like all the songs on Murmurs, it relies upon coyish simplicity and aspires to evoke a childlike world of imagination. But it succeeds where some of the other songs do not. And like all those songs on the album that do, it kindles the hope that more such songs, sweetly layered with winter landscapes, are forthcoming.
DNTEL – Life is Full of Possibilities
Bjork – Vespertine
Múm – Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Was OK