Album Review: Lullabies by Lauren Fleming
This review was originally published in Dust-Up Magazine on July 14, 2017 for the “RVA Bandcamp Of The Week” column.
Albums like Lullabies by Lauren Fleming are exactly why I write this column. I don’t know Lauren Fleming. I’ve never even heard of her name before this week, let alone the sublime music she writes. I’m struggling to even think of a scenario, any one at all, in which I’d be exposed to this record outside of browsing Bandcamp. It makes me think of all the incredible music, locally and globally, being released on that medium that I’m missing, that everyone is missing. It’s a thought that could overwhelm me, but then I’d be ignoring this wonderful release from Fleming, one full of inventive and delightful musical ideas that should not, in any instance, go unheard.
First things first, Lullabies is not a typical record or album. It’s a fragmented release I assume Fleming just put out so she could reference it at some point in the future. In her own words from the website, “This album is basically a few songs I’ve created in my room from Summer 2016-2017 (excluding my a few electronic ones).”
Now, “songs” may be pushing it. All but two songs hover around the ninety second mark and while there’s nothing wrong with brevity in song writing — especially within the confines of bedroom pop — these all seem like unfinished compositions, “works-in-progress” if you will. In fact, three tracks on the release carry the word “demo” in the song title, including the first track, “Fears (Demo),” which… actually may be the only truly realized song on the record. Confused? Yeah, me too a little.
Let’s not get hung up on this. Lullabies may be full of incomplete musical ideas, but they are still gorgeous musical ideas, deserving of high praise and countless listens. It gives us a peak into the colorful world of bedroom pop experimentation Fleming must live in, one that may exist due to loneliness, anxiety, or boredom, even though it delivers perfect feelings of harmony, serenity, and curiosity.
Fragmented or not, there are plenty of remarkable moments on this record. “To My Long Lost Sailing Buddy (2016)” provides a delightful bridge in its short run time, as well as brief, but gratifying backing vocals. “Chloe” is twenty seconds of charming sounds, playing out like a whimsical Shugo Tokumaru interlude. Even the more experimental moments are rewarding too like “How To Play My Love Song (Demo),” where she sings her own composition with instruction. “I think that was F if you were interested” she says in the middle of a lyrical verse inviting the listener to play along, almost feel along with her. If it is, like the title suggests, just a demo, God only knows how striking the final version could or would be.
The release’s strongest moment comes at the beginning with “Fears (Demo),” which, as I mentioned before, is Fleming’s most realized song. It’s a perfect bedroom pop song, opening with simple plucks and vocal swaying before easing into a charming vocal melody, but it’s also an early introduction into Fleming’s creativity and experimentation. Instead of letting the main vocal melody carry through, she inserts a dense verse early on, packing as many syllables into a phrase as humanely possible, almost conditioning the listener to expect something unusual and great within each track. The song’s biggest triumph is its lyrics though, especially the reaffirming refrain that closes it out, as powerful as any lyric written in Richmond over the last year. “If fear’s not a reality / It’s all just in my mind / If fear’s not a reality / I’ve got to let it die.” Wise words for any troubled mind.
It may not be a typical release, even for those who’ve followed the discography of succinct, yet prolific artists like Frankie Comsos and Car Seat Headrest, but there’s no questioning the musical reward Lullabies offers its listeners. The ideas Fleming offers, complete or not, are highly creative and deeply inspiring, making Lullabies easily one of the strongest releases of the year for Richmond… whether you actually call it an album or not.