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  This Time, Each Year  
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As a reviewer, it's usually a bad thing to let your pre-conceived notions get in the way of your listening. For instance, This Time, Each Year, the latest release of Lorna, came to me by way of Postlibyan. Having known him for many years, I am aware of the many ways in which our musical tastes diverge. And then there were lines printed n the CD Case: "This is something we like to call cottage-rock – a mellow blend of male & female vocals delivering sticky-sweet harmonies, a table of organic instrumentation…., and breezy melodies."

Somewhat doubtful, I pushed the CD to the side, until at long last, I forced myself to press play.

And when I did, I found I actually rather liked Lorna. The opening song, The Special Guest, begins with horns and an echoey voice. Taken together, it sounds like a more acoustic and warmer version of Palaxy Tracks, albeit with the occasional female vocalist. In general, I don't particularly care for female vocalists, but, in the case of this song, her voice is light without being fey. Similarly, the next song, Sandown Bay has similarities to the first song, although it has a slight difference in tempo. More importantly, I like the way Lorna plays with their instrumentation, in that the horn shows up against a piano, which then fades into a guitar, while all the while brushed drums play slowly in the background. All of this gives Lorna a lush sound that isn't sonically overwhelming.

In fact, this lushness alternating with relatively open sonic space seems to characterize much of This Time, Each Year. For instance, Glow-Worm begins with chirping in the background that then slides into a picked guitar melody. In some ways, this song reminds me of Lanterna, until the female vocalist chimes in. Nevertheless, the song plays my dynamic expectations of a song, as each part rises and falls. Similarly, Notes from a Generator begins with a measured guitar arpeggio and horn melody that seems deceptively static. However, as the song progresses, the duetted vocals harmonize in unexpected intervals. Then some nice backing instrumental touches come in and the volume increases before falling to a soft-ish instrumental interlude. It's all rather beautiful and delicate and, most importantly, it works

The main problem with this sound, however, is that, unless you're a particular fan of the genre, everything begins to have a certain sameness. I first noticed it during No one's Been Here Before. Unlike Notes From a Generator, this one doesn't build and grow as it progresses. Instead with the domineering female vocals, it moves into fey cuteness territory. Similarly, Building Beautiful Buildings, like many of the album's tracks, begins with a single instrument that then is contrasted to a different instrument. With the slow pacing, it would seem to be another fine example of the open sonic space I mentioned previously. However, in this case, when both female vocalists come in to sing, their voices overwhelm the music and begin to sound at once cloying and dreary. Finally, Punxsutawney Song features some particularly pretty instrumentation, whose mood is completely broken by extra-prominent high-pitched female vocals. Of course some of my issues may be my afore-mentioned dislike of female vocalists combined with my sense that Lorna's instrumental parts are too interesting in their own right to be marred by singing.

Nevertheless, there are some particularly strong songs on This Time, Each year. Aside from the first two songs, South of the Border, West of the Sun is a good representation of the Lorna sound. Like much of their music, it begins slowly and deliberately with some suitably spacey effects in the background. Although it is completely instrumental, the musicians play a fairly simple riff off of each other as the song builds to its finish. The other stand out song on the album is one that is slightly different for the band. For Hours Light is an upbeat, almost rock track.  Although it uses the same vocal techniques as the rest of the album, in this case theses vocals are not overwhelming, mainly because of raucous drumming which contrasts nicely with almost 50s-esque ballad nature of the melody. On this song at least, Lorna reminds me of a band like The Aisler's Set, or perhaps a slightly more adventurous Saturday Looks Good to Me.

In the end, Lorna has released a rather good album. I suspect that for fans of this type of music, it would be even more stunning. Nevertheless, anyone who likes good, well thought out music with interesting and diverse instrumentation would find the majority of This Time, Each Year compelling.

Related Links:

Lorna, a free album the band gave away on their website a few years back, and that featured some of the same songs on this album.


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