Contemporary music from everywhere

The Parlor – Kiku

kikuThe Parlor’s new album takes its name from the Japanese word for chrysanthemum, written 菊. Like the Albany, New York couple’s music, the name is devastatingly sweet. And, like these 10 new tracks from Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans, it comes with more than a hint of melancholy.

O’Connor spotted chrysanthemums growing in their farmhouse garden after she suffered her second miscarriage. In a quote attributed to both partners, they describe “reaching out across the plane of the living and the dead where we stumbled upon the tiny hand of the soul we lost. We brought a piece of her, of Kiku, back with us.”

When O’Connor sings “no baby between us” on the album’s lead track “Soon,” it’s difficult not to feel a bit of their pain. Their ability to immerse all of that hurt in such beautiful music is a humbling thing to hear.

Described as “a kind of synth-folk chamber-pop,” Kiku is a more involved album than previous efforts. Besides packing an emotional punch, there’s a lot going on here musically. Think M83 and The Dream Academy with a bit of lo-fi pop thrown in.

Equal parts acoustic and electronic, the duo’s songwriting is joyfully unhindered. The tracks are so lusciously packaged that instrumentation matters less than the deep impression each song leaves.

“Soon” is an obvious highlight, as is the video that accompanies its release. You’ll find yourself similarly unable to shake O’Connor’s vocal on “You,” the splendid overproduction of “In” and the album’s second-to-last track “Deep.” Check out this week’s podcast for a taste.

Kevin Press

Create a website or blog at