The quest for authenticity in a music scene can quickly become a bane as well-intentioned young musicians often let their love for a certain artist or period turn into thinly veiled academic mimicry. We see it time and time again in what has become known as indie folk and the results are often acceptable, even pleasing at first. But a prewar six-string and stack of old LPs can only get you so far, and after a while the disguise wears thin, revealing stylized songs with an unfortunate lack of substance. What Melbourne-via-Brooklyn duo Luluc have pulled off with their second album, Passerby, requires one of life's most hard-won commodities: patience. Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett first began singing together in 1999 and it would be another nine years of writing, revising, and artistic meditation before they issued their first album, the wonderfully understated Dear Hamlyn. That first batch of self-released songs rang with a simple purity unencumbered by desperation and it slowly made waves, attracting fans like like legendary producer Joe Boyd (Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan), Lucinda Williams, and the National's Aaron Dessner, who now acts as co-producer on this second release. The simplicity of Dear Hamlyn remains intact and the added instrumentation is appropriately subtle and warmly nuanced to fit the ten lovely songs on Passerby. The sound is austere with Randell's low, airy voice describing a winter scene from an airplane on "Small Window" or contemplating a past relationship from her city apartment window on "Reverie on Norfolk." These small everyday scenes are certainly nothing groundbreaking, but in the hands of a gifted artist, they can carry the weight of a small world. These are quiet, timeless songs that show a healthy restraint yet exude a true sentimentality that is so often lacking in modern indie folk music. There are many rich layers expressing fondness, regret, wonder, and gentle heartache as viewed by two travelers watching life unfold halfway across the world from their adopted American cityscape. From the thoughtful reflections of the title cut to the sad tenderness of "Tangled Heart," the themes are relatable and void of trendiness. Luluc's attention to detail and careful songcraft are apparent yet the music slides comfortably by, revealing its true depth with repeated listens. The six years between their debut and Passerby were obviously well spent, and if it takes Randell and Hassett another six to write more material of this caliber, then we should be grateful for their patience.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger