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Review: Lullatone’s Songs That Spin In Circles

Some upfront honesty: Lullatone are my favorite Japanese band going and new releases from them make me giddy to a point where objectivity completely melts away. I’m smitten with their self-described “pajama pop,” a child-like sound melding the conventional (guitar, keyboard) with the imaginative (drumming on bath water, snores). In a decade featuring scores of artists trying to push things forward, Shawn and Yoshimi Seymour kept the equation simple and relaxing (their motto: “minimalism is cute”) and produced some of the most unique music of the Oughts. Big reveal – this blog is named after a Lullatone song.

Unsurprisingly then, I love the Nagoya duo’s newest release Songs That Spin In Circles even if the premise seemed a little too kiddie at first. Lullatone’s latest is a collection of loopable lullabies geared at helping babies (and adults!) fall asleep in the wake of the group welcoming their own baby into the world.

Songs That Spin bridges the gap between Lullatone’s recent adventures into twinkly pop and there early lullaby experiments featuring nothing but sine waves. Gone are actual lyrics and structure, replaced by Yoshimi’s “ba-ba’s” and a pleasant swirl of cuddly noise. This album contains Lullatone’s biggest (“biggest” used very loosely) music, as the duo loads these lullabies up with bells, electric blurbles and even a children’s choir on opener “A Mobile Over Your Head.” That number sets the pace for the all of Songs That Spin, opening with just some sparse electric bloops before introducing a range of new elements that guide “Mobile” towards the Lullatone calling card of making something as simple as trying to nap sound almost cosmic.

The duo pay great attention to detail here, giving each song a hand-made feel appropriate for an album mad e for their newborn son. Sticking with the spinning theme running throughout the album, Lullatone work in as many real-world objects they can for appropriate moments. So, you can hear the crack of vinyl on “An Old Record On Its Player” and tick-tocking on “The Hands of a Clock” and so forth. Pay special attention and you’ll hear the actual beating of a heart on several songs – that’s how much attention they pay to these lullabies.

Most of these songs start running together after a while (which is kind of the point) save for the lazy-day bossa nova of “A Plastic Bag In The Wind.” Lullatone have always had a bossa nova bent to their sound, but “Bag” stands out because it’s straight-up bossa nova. Nothing but guitar, shaker, Yoshimi’s voice, a mouth click-clacking the song along, some bells, bird noises and the faintest beating of human heart. This is one of Lullatone’s best bossa efforts and a clear stand-out.

Now for the important questions – does this album actually help you fall asleep? I haven’t conked out while listening to Lullatone’s latest yet, but Songs That Spin definitely sounds relaxing. Listening to this album in the day seems near impossible – save for “Bag” which is perfect midday music . It might not put me to sleep but it definitely helps me get ready to snooze. And they’ve gotten positive feedback on the baby sleep front.

Songs That Spin works as a set of sleep-inducing lullabies, but what makes this album (and all of Lullatone’s work) special is how personal it all feels. The band’s earliest songs are lullabies recorded by Shawn for Yoshimi, and now the two of them are making music for their son. The story behind these 11 loopable songs makes already cute music even more precious, and it’s extremely nice of them to share such personal music with the rest of the world. And I might just be a homer, but I could spin these songs all day.

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Buy the album at Lullatone’s website