Songwriter Escapes Haze, Borrows From ’70s Folk

Julian Lynch
Terra
Underwater Peoples

One of last year’s most critically overlooked records is Mare, a collection of world-leaning pop music recorded by Michigan-based ethnomusicologist Julian Lynch. Though that record is often unassuming (wispy, cyclical guitar lines and barely-there vocal melodies), it possesses a degree of warmth and amiability rare in contemporary indie rock.

Follow-up Terra certainly retains that lived-in, old sweater comfort, but also finds Lynch exploring increasingly wider instrumental ground in a way that’s both developed and ambitious.

By about 45 seconds into the title track, it’s clear that Lynch has learned a lot since Mare. Though the song opens with a common, though gorgeous, saxophone solo, it blossoms to reveal ambling eth- nic percussion and Byrds-style jangle guitar. The Eastern atmospherics and psychedelic backdrop are still present, but the final product consistently sounds more like Fleetwood Mac than a Sublime Frequencies release.

While none of the other compositions on the album are quite as pop-minded as “Terra,” they still possess a sense of focused lucidity that sets Terra apart from the rest of Lynch’s oeuvre. The piano riff on “Fort Collins,” for example, sounds as though it could have been pulled from a lost mid-decade Coldplay single.

Also outstanding is closing track “Back.” With winsome acoustic strumming and the kind of gen- tle melody that sounds tailor-made for warm, lazy evenings, the track seems destined for “Summer ‘11” mixtape glory.

Like Mare before it, Terra has its share of jammy, psychedelic atmospheric tunes — but Lynch has also clearly begun to transcend the circle of hazy East Coast artists with whom he got his start, crafting catchy, pop-minded, yet relentlessly innovative folk music. (8/10)

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