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Caroline: “Swimmer”

If nothing else, please read the Wikipedia entry on Caroline Lufkin who just goes by Caroline when she records music. The Okinawa born singer walked away from a fat J-Pop contract a few years ago to pursue sounds she wanted to make, avoiding the same limelight her sister chose to embrace. She also tours in Mice Parade. Fascinating stuff. Caroline has a new album out in 2011…in stores in Japan now, coming to the rest of the world shortly…called Verdugo Hills and “Swimmer” stands as an early triumph off the album and of the young year. It’s a fragile, minimal creature, a Bjork-like composition reduced to it’s starkest elements. Save for a few keyboard taps and distant twinkles, the beginning portion of “Swimmer” primarily features Caroline’s voice, first in distant clouds of noise and then untouched singing. It’s easy to see why Japanese pop labels wanted to turn her into a candy-coated idol – her vocals boast a range perfect for balladry, the preferred song of the J-Pop diva. Yet whereas a Oricon-ready tune would pile on the sap and instrumentation, Caroline leaves plenty of space for her singing to rise up and show off its beauty. Then she does something no major exec would dare do…tinkers with it. She doubles up her voice and splits it off as more instruments start sneaking in, her words eventually just falling into a loop. Then she becomes clear again and the song just drifts out as unobtrusively as it came in. The skeletal frame Caroline puts “Swimmer” into magnifies the longing central to the track’s lyrics, at times sensual but always a little lonely. Just gorgeous.