Midnight Sister: Painting the Roses

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Indie Pop / Funk / Neo Soul
premiera polska:
kontynent: Ameryka Północna
kraj: USA
opakowanie: Triplefoldowe etui

Pitchfork - 7.0
Melding disco extravagance with Old Hollywood glamour, the Los Angeles duo’s lush, shape-shifting glam rock transcends pastiche with theatrical flair.

Inside the velvet-lined world of Midnight Sister, Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian party like it’s 1972. The Los Angeles nu-disco duo make lush, seductive glam rock informed by their respective fields: Lead vocalist Giraffe is a filmmaker and visual artist, and composer Balouzian writes movie scores. Their visually rich approach draws on a pile of colorful references, among them vaudeville, glitter rock, and Lynchian melodrama. In 2017, they introduced their moody, cabaret-influenced style with Saturn Over Sunset, pairing the record with dramatic self-made music videos. A new album, Painting the Roses, ups the theatrical flair, showcasing their love of layered orchestral pop, ornate disco, and breezy psychedelia. Their muses may be familiar, but Midnight Sister approach them with a fascination that transcends mere imitation.

Midnight Sister are not shy about acknowledging their forebears—Saturn Over Sunset’s “Blue Cigar” namechecked one of their more obvious influences, T. Rex. But their total commitment to disco glitz offers the kind of escape we could all use, and their attention to detail is striking. Over the rose-tinted dancefloor groove of “Sirens,” Giraffe sings about a “midnight disco,” her voice enveloped by the genre’s go-to motifs: hot horns, Chic’s chucking guitar, and a breath-heavy bridge à la Donna Summer. Giraffe and Balouzian toy with pastiche throughout Painting the Roses, but it’s done with swagger and musical devotion. Their enthusiasm redeems even the cheesiest moments on the record—it’s hard to deny their infatuation with a bygone era of carefree, extravagant nightlife.

Giraffe, the face and conceptual mastermind of the group, often directs and photographs Midnight Sister’s surrealist music videos. A trained cinematographer and graduate of mime school, she brings an off-kilter flamboyance that shapes the duo’s highly referential sound into something more unique. In the visual for “Foxes”—a glitter-rock ballad heavily indebted to Marc Bolan—Giraffe emerges from a dingy blue curtain wearing a pearl-encrusted catsuit. Instead of stepping onto a stage, she stalks a drab backlot, perching on dumpsters and posing in front of razor wire, her makeup and hair askew. Part diva, part doomed court jester, Giraffe’s performance is a playful subversion of tacky circus revivalism tropes. Fortunately, Midnight Sister’s music is good enough to justify the pageantry.

Recording an album is a far cheaper way to build a world than making a movie, as Giraffe has noted, and Midnight Sister are certainly proficient in world-building. Their snapshots of Los Angeles’ neon-lit motels, desert drives, and doughnut shops could make even a staunch New Yorker (briefly) acknowledge the city’s appeal. Though L.A. is a character in Midnight Sister’s script, it’s a romanticized, filmic L.A.—filled with vibrant characters and vintage buildings, not strip malls or traffic. Balouzian’s arrangements inspire an even more remote vision of the city; his cinematic strings on “Escalators” and the title track conjure the drama of Old Hollywood film scores, the kind performed in theaters by live orchestras.

Giraffe’s choral arrangements are equally well suited to the silver screen, particularly on “Song for the Trees,” where an operatic chorus arrives as a welcome contrast to the sleepy, LSD-era Beatles sound. Here, as on “Wednesday Baby,” Giraffe dips into a low, wispy Nico register, one of her many vocal guises. Unlike the classically trained Balouzian, Giraffe is a self-taught singer. Her range is playful and wide, and she swaps out voices like shades of lipstick. A screech, a dreamy falsetto, and a macho drawl could all exist within the same song—a satisfying manifestation of Midnight Sister’s shape-shifting, character-driven music.

Painting the Roses, as a phrase, echoes another: “gilding the lily,” the unnecessary adornment of an already beautiful thing. Allegedly, it’s something to be avoided. Midnight Sister, whose music is decked out in brass, Mellotron, Wurlitzer, accordion, and all sorts of other bells and whistles, beg to differ. Their album is a celebration of harmless indulgences: dressing up, going out, getting swept into the drama of a song. In Painting the Roses’ one-stop discotheque of the mind, more will always be more.
By Madison Bloom

Juliana Giraffe - Vocals
Ari Balouzian - Keys and Strings
Max Whipple - Bass, Saw, Cello, Clarinet, Accordion
Eli Pearl - Guitar and Pedal Steel
Jay Rudolph - Drums and Percussion
Colin Kupka - Alto and Tenor Sax
Ryan Parrish - Baritone and Tenor Sax
Chris Williams - Trumpet
Vikram Devasthali - Trombone
John MF Anderson - Guitar on “Doctor Says” and “Tomorrowland”
JJ Kirkpatrick - Trumpet on “Foxes” and “Sirens”

All Songs Written by Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian
Produced by Ari Balouzian and Samur Khouja
Horn Arrangements by Max Whipple
String Arrangements by Ari Balouzian
Engineered by Carlos Gonzalez and Samur Khouja
Mixed by Samur Khouja
Mastered by Keba Kadry
“Tomorrowland” and “Painting The Roses” Produced and Mixed by Chet JR White and Ari Balouzian

1. Doctor Says 02:38
2. Satellite 04:06
3. Foxes 02:56
4. Sirens 03:50
5. Escalators 02:51
6. Dearly Departed 05:04
7. Tomorrowland 04:21
8. My Elevator Song 02:48
9. Wednesday Baby 03:18
10. Limousine 04:26
11. Song for the Trees 02:53
12. Painting the Roses 03:13

wydano: Jan 15, 2021
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Midnight Sister
Painting the Roses
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