Friday, October 24, 2008


We were talking earlier about "Naptime Music," tunes that are not really lullabies, but songs to contemplate while you're watching clouds float by or just taking a break from the annoying skronk of the world in general. Sunflow's Under the Stars is another great example of that genre, an album that features soothing lyrics, loads of harmonies, and knowing nods to Emitt Rhodes, Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney & Wings, The High Llamas, and Barry Manilow. Personally, this is the kind of record that makes me want to plug in my bass and sing that fourth or fifth harmony part.

American Nancy Falkow and Dubliner Fran King, both accomplished popmeisters in their own right, teamed up to create Under the Stars with help from fellow melody maker Duncan Maitland. All three are based in Ireland now, which may account for the lyrical images of oceans, rain, rivers, and seas that populate several of the songs on Under the Stars.

Fran and Nancy trade off lead vocals on every other song, singing their own compositions. Under the Stars kicks off with the co-written, impossibly beautiful "(When You're In) Slumberland," Fran's Harry Nilsson homage. I just can't believe people are still allowed to write songs this good! Next is Nancy's sweetly jaunty "I Wish You Love," reminiscent of Nilsson's late '60s tunes (Sunflow love Nilsson!), and not a little similar to The Jellydots' "Pretty Little Baby." Fran follows with his very Paul McCartney-like "Eve's Lullaby (My Little One)," a song so tasty the ex-Beatle would trade his knighthood for it.

Nancy's "Sleepytown" is a quietly acoustic tune that contains the awesome line "Bumpy, rumbling stones will sooth your soul / Just a little break from rock and roll", after which waves wash up on a shore, fading into Fran's "Daisies & Orchids." The song begins serenely and builds into another McCartney-ish tune, with a chorus straight outta Paul's Flowers in the Dirt era. And Nancy's "Rock-A-Bye Dreams" is another mostly acoustic tune that would (and should) be a chart-topper on American country radio.

Fran's breezy "August Moon" features the baion beat that so fascinated Leiber & Stoller and Pomus & Shuman (check out "Spanish Harlem," "There Goes My Baby," "Save the Last Dance for Me," and "This Magic Moment"), and a chorus that would have been right at home on McCartney's Red Rose Speedway. The sweeping "Now Sleep" is Nancy's exploration of the connection between parents and their children, and the comfort kids take in mom or dad's arms at bedtime. The album ends with Fran's soft Tin Pan Alley tune, "Dreamboat," and Nancy's dreamy waltz, "Goodnight."

I've talked a lot on this blog about music being a powerful entity, a force that transcends genre, era, or listener age. This here album is so full of good vibes and beautiful melodies it's a shame you have to cobble it with a label like "children's music" ... so we won't! Under the Stars is music, folks ... dig it, and buy copies for all your family.

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