Fall of Spring
Here I sit, thinking about the torrential rain and wind blanketing the eastern seaboard, and dreaming of warm kisses from the sun on a hilly bike ride in the country. I’m at work, to tell you all the truth, inside a rather chilly library (writing on my lunch break—too bleak to venture outside). My eyes move slowly from computer screen to rain-dappled window, yearning for a summer that wasn’t. A summer that should have been warm rather than sweltering; a summer that should have been speckled with relaxing days on quiet beaches rather than full of stressful agonizing weeks watching the economy wilt in the heat; and my friends and family face foreclosure, unemployment, and bankruptcy. The fact is, I need a break. We all do.
This is where Lonely Drifter Karen floats in, propelled on the light wings of twee, ukulele, and Spanish-tickled guitar. They are a group of European musicians who make a miserable storm-soaked Philadelphia day seem instead like a mild spring afternoon in Brussels. “Russian Bells” in particular has a lilting Belle and Sebastian feeling, leaving me wishing that I had a comfortable picnic place to enjoy a glass of wine and a slab of baguette with my fiancee. I close my eyes and tune out the electronic hum of the xerox machine, and dream of us dancing to the sweet ballet melody of “Julien,” carefree and barefoot in the grass.
Fall of Spring is a record that is as complex as it is airy and simplistic. They’re not only grounded by lazy pop harmonies that sound like they should be streaming out of the speakers at your local Banana Republic (although “Russian Bells” would seem to go nicely with a pair of finely crafted chino pants). They’re also dark and mysterious at times, backed by ghostly guitar reverb on “Eventually,” and punctuated by energetic hand slaps and dramatic growling piano on the gypsy folk influenced “A Roof Somewhere.”
Watching their live videos on YouTube reminds me of seeing Neko Case in concert—they’ve got their shit together, so to speak. Like the powerhouse that is Ms. Case, they are everything in concert that they are on their record. Lonely Drifter Karen sounds fantastic live, and clearly has a mess of talent behind a European charm that is unsullied by Auto-Tune or studio-mixing gymnastics. Perhaps, though, what make them work the best is their uncanny ability to take me away, even if just for a moment, to a sun-drenched European countryside. A girl can dream, can’t she?