Jill Cunniff

City Beach

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Upon first listen, "Lazy Girls," the opening song on City Beach, seems like nothing more than an appealingly lazy, hazy way to kick off the first solo album from former Luscious Jackson leader Jill Cunniff, but it soon becomes clear that her praise of slow, leisurely afternoons, laid-back boys, and orange popsicles isn't just a pop confection, it's a rallying cry. "Life's to enjoy," she sings at the conclusion of its chorus, and it's a sentiment she repeats on "Happy Warriors," when she insists that "when are you feeling down/let the record spin around" -- and if these ideas sound a little pat on paper, they sound seductive as music, particularly because Cunniff sustains a wonderfully warm, slyly jazzy mood throughout the record. This often does evoke memories of Luscious Jackson -- it's pop music with a casual eclecticism, underpinned by rolling hip-hop beats and highlighted by flourishes of funk, jazz, and Brazilian bossa nova -- but where Jackson occasionally seemed as if they were in a rush to jam as many styles into their sound as possible, Cunniff digs deeper into her idiosyncrasies, creating music that feels unhurried and flows easily. City Beach never hits hard, never seems forced, but even if this is deliberately lazy music, that doesn't mean that it lacks hooks or structure: if anything, the best songs here -- like the glistening, tight pop of "Exclusive" or the steamy, trippy "NYC Boy" or the stomping "Future Call," the closest this gets to being hard-edged -- are more immediate than Luscious Jackson, evidence that Cunniff's skills as a writer are sharpening. But the best thing about City Beach is how Cunniff easily sucks you into her particular worldview, where things don't need to be as desperately frenetic as they are in the thick of the 21st century. During the sultry crawl of "Warm Sound," she suggests that we should "start the century again at a slower pace" -- and based on the sweet and slow City Beach, it's hard not to agree with her.

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