The cinematic EZ listening music of Midnight Sister presents a sound that we may have heard before, but which teases and pleases the ear nonetheless. Through their deceptively simple sound, the duo of Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian channel an encyclopedic pop songbook and, in their promo videos, a distinct eye for glamour. On “Blue Cigar,” a snappy roller-rink organ rhythm gives way to a technicolor Mellotron wash that suggests the emotional stakes behind this catchy little number. This is as enjoyable as hypnagogic parlor-pop gets.
When listening to Midnight Sister’s new album Saturn Over Sunday, it’s not essential to know the group hails from Los Angeles, but that factoid conjures a pleasing flight of fancy. I imagine Giraffe and Balouzian, fueled on martinis, plundering the Hollywood basements of Capitol Records for 1960s bachelor-pad music of A&M Records for mellow 70s soft-rock. Who knows, maybe they headed over to Studio City as well to loot the CBS Studio Center of soap-opera soundtracks, since their ballad “Clown” echoes the weepy piano figure from “Nadia’s Theme (The Young And The Restless)” (a top ten hit in 1976!). Midnight Sister points to a Los Angeles tradition of pop that evokes a decadent sense of displacement: the WWII-era Hollywood songbook of German communist Hanns Eisler; the sublime orchestral flashes of songwriters Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb, and Lee Hazlewood; the pickled chamber pop of 90s cult act Wild Acoustic Chamber Orchestra; the ghostly symphonics of Ariel Pink and Julia Holter. Chase these timeless hooks down with another martini.
MIDNIGHT SISTER ON TOUR:
9/8 – Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom
9/9 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
9/11 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Atrium at The Catalyst
9/12 – San Francisco, CA @ Independent
9/14 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
9/15 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
9/16 – Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore Cabaret
9/19 – St Paul, MN @ Turf Club
9/20 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas
9/22 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brendas
9/23 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs at musicalurbanism.org and is writing a book about Martha & the Muffins and the late 70s/early 80s downtown Toronto music scene.