Laguna are a retro-futuristic pop act from Seattle. Their sound reminds a lot of Esquivel (a 1950s composer who was trendy for a while in the 1990s): it's a little jazzy but with electronic elements. The overall effect is of a 1950s vision of the future, as if this were the music that George Jetson's kids danced to.
The most prominent element is the voice Lydia Nor, who has a wide dynamic range and some obvious training (no auto-tune here!). The next most noticeable sonic element is the drumming/percussion of Shane Peck, which is minimal yet driving. It is the quality voice and the drumming that make me think of Esquivel and The Jetsons, since Nor and Peck are the core of this band. They add in horns and lots of keys and synths over vaguely island like rhythms. The band is from Seattle, but for some reason this music makes me want to be on the beach with a daiquiri in my hand. (NOTE: I hate sand.)
Listening to this record all at once can get to be a bit much. There is a lot of similarity between the songs, and that can wear the listener down. I suppose that if you are really into this style of retro-futuristic music this might not be the case. Heck, i know people who can listen to entire Esquivel records -- both sides at once! Personally, after about 20 minutes of this stuff, i am ready to move on.
However, we live in the post-album era, when "albums" are just a packaging device but the material gets loaded onto the MP3 player of the listenerís choice and, ultimately, shuffled randomly with whatever other music they happen to have. As such, i have to admit that whenever a song by Laguna comes up in the random flow of my Zune, i find myself tapping my feet and looking for a fruity drink with an umbrella in it. Given the way that people listen to music now, i think that is a pretty good recommendation.
So let's consider the tunes here.
Falling starts with a wash of synths, then echoed guitar and a skittering drum beat come in. It sounds like this beat is played live, but at the same time it sounds like something Massive Attack would love to sample. Mr. Peck is a really good drummer. Ms. Nor comes in, singing in a rapid manner, spitting out words, and on the chorus another female voice harmonizes as they sing somewhat slower. This is a happy little trip-hop tune
The next tune is less trip-hop, more funk, with a great rolling bass riff courtesy of Noah Wilson. To this, Peck adds some light drumming and a happy little keyboard trill. Nor sings in a smoky, sultry way, chanting "You are such, you are such a LIAR" emphatically at the end of the song. The tune is called Space Boy, and it is great fun.
Volcano sounds like the acid jazz genre that was big for a few years in the mid 1990s. I tried to get into that stuff, but it just wasn't too innovative and sounded like traditional jazz done by mediocre players. Give me Hamid Drake or Ken Vandermark over anyone making acid jazz. So, this is an okay tune, but slow and not their best work.
However, Moon Beams is a similar song that works much better. It is tropically themed acid jazz. What makes it noteworthy, to me at least, is that Nor raps. Not like gangsta rap (yo!) but instead she speaks her lyrics at breakneck speed forming a sort of vocal rhythm, reminiscent of the way that Travis Morrison of The Dismemberment Plan would speak some of his lyrics so fast. At any rate, Nor's speedy rap amid the tropical beats and little keyboard trills make this a toe-tappingly good tune. I bet the kids dance to this when Laguna play live.
Laguna add a reggae guitar beat to Into the Blue Night, a song which on the whole reminds me of the American new wave interpretation of reggae. Think Blondie's The Tide Is High and you will be close to what this sounds like. Laguna also add in some steel drum, but i guess that might be a synth patch. I love Saturn features horns and piano in and old school jazz tune. The horn is well used, and in fact drives the song. It is back to the Caribbean and steel drums for Soca 4, another one that i bet could get people dancing. Do couples in Seattle do traditional Caribbean dances at Laguna shows? I have no way to know, but i am curious.
A nice synth melody opens Wedde Beat which also has a clattering xylophone and synth strings. This is a schmaltzy ballad, with Nor emoting her lungs out. And then, atypically for Laguna, we have a dreampop song called You Will Be Here. A guitar, distorted and termoloed, drives this song. The drums are subdued, and Nor's voice is almost quiet in the mix. It's a nice song, but not like the rest of the record at all. And speaking of atypical tunes, Thai Rivers ends the album with a nice Sterolabbish groove and a male voice reminiscent of Stephen Merrit singing along with Nor.
There are some good tunes that stand out when i listen to the record as a unit, specifically Space Boy and Moon Beams, but any of these songs is welcome when they pop up in the random stream of MP3s. I guess that Laguna add some much-needed color to the Gigs of new wave, IDM, and post-rock that fills my Zune.