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Luna Li - Duality Music Album Reviews

Luna Li - Duality Music Album Reviews
Early in the pandemic, the Toronto multi-instrumentalist’s bedroom videos made her a viral sensation. Now, her debut album puts a widescreen spin on those whimsical miniatures.

Years from now, everything we experienced during this pandemic—Tiger King, the sourdough uprising, Zoom background filters, spraying Lysol on your produce—will be compiled into a Buzzfeed list titled something like “57 Things Only People Who Lived Though COVID Will Understand.” And somewhere on that list, between “pre-New York Times Wordle” and “bespoke Loveless face masks,” you might find Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist Hannah Bussere Kim, aka Luna Li. In the midst of the first lockdown wave, Li used isolation to her advantage, posting a series of brief clips to social media that savvily edited together discrete performances on a variety of instruments—violin, bass, keyboards, guitar, a big-ass harp—into splendorous one-woman-band bedroom jams. Thanks to her engaging on-camera enthusiasm and the sheer blissfulness of her instrumentals, Li swiftly became a viral sensation, accumulating millions of views, tour offers from her hero Japanese Breakfast, and copious fan art created in her honor.

But those micro-tunes were more than just fleeting feel-good distractions to take our minds off the ambulance sirens blaring outside; they were also trailers for the widescreen retro-futurist vision that unfurls on Li’s debut album, Duality. For Li, that title carries multiple meanings: It speaks to her experience as a mixed-race Korean-Canadian, a classically trained musician who found her true calling in DIY pop, and an overnight novelty star who’s actually been cultivating her musical aesthetic for a good half decade. Duality also speaks to the experience of the album itself. On the one hand, this is an intensely introspective record, a diary-like catalog of intimate exchanges, wistful memories, and ruminations on loneliness. But on the other, it’s pure fantasy, situating its everyday dramas in a dreamy wonderland illuminated by lava lamps, moonbeams, and wizard-wand sparkles.

In sharp contrast to her soothing videos, Duality begins in mayhem, with the sort of guitar-smashing, drum-bashing cacophony that arena-rock bands deploy as their grand finale. But after 15 seconds, the noise disappears as if sucked up by a vacuum, giving way to the minimal drum-machine beat and winsome guitar melody of “Cherry Pit.” The effect might mirror the unsettling dualism of many people’s lockdown experience—that odd, irreconcilable contrast between the chaos raging in the world outside and the quiet sanctity of work-from-home living. Only here, Li to applies her layer-by-layer bedroom-jam blueprint to an epically scaled romantic reverie: “Spit your cherry pit down in the forest/I will find it, and carry it in my pocket,” she sings, as if secretly nurturing the seed to a blossoming relationship. Sure enough, over its five-minute span, the song grows and grows, gradually adding gently plucked harp and overlapping vocal lines to intensify that light-headed lovestruck feeling. By the time “Cherry Pit” reaches its climactic phased-out guitar solo, it becomes clear the song’s crashing intro wasn’t just some random snippet, but a sneak preview of Li’s psych-rock majesty in full bloom.

Duality’s sound feels instantly familiar, though exactly what it reminds you of could depend on your age: Over the course of its 13 tracks, Li and producer/bandmate Braden Sauder pass a thread through the buoyant harmonies of late-’60s Beach Boys and ELO, the acidic soul of Shuggie Otis and Eddie Hazel-era Funkadelic, the space-age synth-phonies of Stereolab and Air, and the post-chillwave R&B of We Are KING and recent Tame Impala. (The album’s daydreamy milieu is disrupted only by “Star Stuff,” a garage-rock sprint where Li channels her inner Karen O.) But where Li’s viral videos showcased her talents as a musician and arranger, Duality is a testament to her pop songwriting smarts, whether she’s using softly cooed verses to slowly lure you toward the luxuriant stargazing hook of “Silver Into Rain,” or scoring a direct hit with “Alone But Not Lonely,” an all-chorus/no-verse self-help affirmation set to funky drumbeat, disco strings, and mirror-balled Nile Rodgers jangle.

“Alone But Not Lonely” effectively sums up Li’s state of mind while making the album: Though many of its songs feel like interior monologues on the pros and cons of being on your own, Duality is also a summit for the wider community of BIPOC indie artists she’s connected with in recent years. Alt-rock upstart beabadoobee helps thrust the aforementioned “Silver Into Rain” toward the heavens, while dream-pop dynamo Jay Som turns up in the dazed cocktail-soul serenade “Boring Again.” And in its dance between ’60s pop sunshine and ’90s R&B heartache, “Flower” seamlessly slips in a guest verse from Chicago rapper Serena Isioma, who uncorks the tension underpinning this seemingly whimsical record when she declares, “I miss making love/Making art!”

Certainly, it’s a feeling a lot of people can relate to after two dispiriting, emotionally numbing years spent in pandemic purgatory. But just as her online videos saw Li making the most out of a shitty situation, the fanciful pop of Duality applies the same silver-lining logic to interpersonal afflictions like dead-end romances, communication breakdowns, and quarter-life-crisis inertia. “I wish you’d see the world as I do,” Li sings on “Magic,” as a stormy gust of strings and a glammy guitar solo whisk her away to another dimension. Her message is clear: When real life has you feeling powerless, you can always rule the universe of your own imagination.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Luna Li - Duality Music Album Reviews Luna Li - Duality Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, March 14, 2022 Rating: 5

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