A Sentimental Education

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Having reunited as a live act in 2015 after what felt like an endless hiatus (it was actually about ten years -- still a long time), Luna return to the studio with the languid and emotive 2017 covers album A Sentimental Education, which comes packaged with an EP of original instrumental music, A Place of Greater Safety. Both albums once again find lead singer/guitarist Dean Wareham communing with bassist/vocalist (and wife) Britta Phillips, guitarist Sean Eden, and drummer Lee Wall. Thankfully, not much has changed in ten years and here we get all the trademark Luna aesthetics, from Wareham's distinctively laconic warble and Eden's serpentine guitar jangle to Wall's tenderly attenuated percussion and Phillips' warmly rounded bass and angelic backing vocals. Another thing that clearly hasn't changed is Wareham's longstanding love of playing covers. It's something he's been doing since as far back as his Galaxie 500 days, and a penchant that peppers much of Luna's catalog (see the 2006 covers compilation Lunafied), achieving an apotheosis on their now infamous 1999 recording of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine." A Sentimental Education continues this tradition with a set of thoughtful and finely curated covers. The A Place of Greater Safety EP also showcases the band in top form and features hooky, well-crafted originals that bring to mind Dean & Britta's soundtrack work for director Noah Baumbach. That said, given how essential Wareham's vocals and lyrics are to Luna's sound, the songs sometimes feel like demos waiting for a final vocal track to be added. Which brings us back to A Sentimental Education. One of the really likable aspects of Wareham's proclivity for covers is that this habit never comes off as an exercise in hipster irony -- you always get the sense that he really just likes the song. A Sentimental Education tracks like Luna's dusky rendition of the Cure's "Fire in Cairo" and their rambling and cheery take on Fleetwood Mac's "One Together" feel affectionate rather than competitive. The band achieves more revelatory results elsewhere, as on the spacy reworking of Willie "Loco" Alexander's criminally underappreciated 1980 new wave anthem "Gin." Their poignantly atmospheric arrangement of "(Walkin' Thru The) Sleepy City" also deserves mention, as it transforms the early Mick Jagger and Keith Richards co-write into an evocative, rain-soaked ballad. It's also fascinating to hear how such seasoned indie rockers rework aspects of the original songs, like when they transfer David Bowie's humming on 1969's "Letter to Hermione" from a vocal part to a guitar line, and use a shimmery synth instead of piano at the end of the Velvet Underground's "Friends." Of course, we also get several sublimely straightforward songs here, like their heartfelt reading of Bob Dylan's "Most of the Time" and their stripped-down, Lou Reed-esque take on Mercury Rev's "Car Wash Hair." As is the case with much of A Sentimental Education, both of those songs find Luna deftly straddling the line between deep reverence and inspired reclamation, a perfect balance that renders each track a new addition to the band's own storied oeuvre.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 5:06
2 2:49
3 3:33
4 3:38
5 2:12
6 4:34
blue highlight denotes track pick