By Jacqueline Sun
Lake Tear of the Clouds is the debut album from Cornelia Murr. Produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, the album is an ethereal soundscape infused with folksy and jazzy instrumentals. The effect is natural yet synthetic – subtle synths contrast with acoustic guitar, while Murr’s vocals feel both intimate and otherworldly. Every guitar and synth line feel self-assuredly crafted and cohesively put together. Even the occasional whistles seem purposeful. The jarring purity of Murr’s voice belies the intricacies of the instrumentals underneath. The album shares its name with the highest pond in the state of New York, and indeed, it is easy to lose yourself in Murr’s flowing stories.
The opening track “Different This Time” is a quiet, unobtrusive introduction to the album. A xylophone-sounding synth, strangely reminiscent of an ice cream truck jingle, interspersed with the occasional drum kick provides a slightly jazzy start. Murr’s dreamy vocals carries the listener to the second track, “Tokyo Kyoto.” Here Murr’s voice gradually come to the fore, along with the instrumentals. The softly tinkling sounds, along with the baseline, blend perfectly together as Murr croons “tokyo kyoto / oh we’ll have those days.” The third track, “Man On My Mind,” is slightly more uptempo, with a more pronounced drum kit. The xylophone synth remains throughout, giving a slightly eerie and haunting effect while Murr serenades softly. “Cicada” distinctly marks the halfway point of Lake Tear of The Clouds. It is certainly the most dissonant and different-sounding track on the album. The synth and vocals are fuzzier, with an incessant xylophone synth underlying the whole track – much like the sound of a cicada. The buildup is muted, yet relentless. The initial, lightly waltzing beat quietly releases into mix of dissonance and synth, and Murr’s signature hum disappears completely, before returning briefly at the end. The track ends with cicada and bird sounds, giving way to the latter half of the album.
The second half of the album, though cohesive with the album as a whole, has a noticeably different sound than the beginning of the album. “Who Am I To Tell You” features a more propulsive and pronounced drum kit. The tinkling and soft xylophone synth has gone, replaced with an assertive marching rhythm and soft bassline. Murr croons with more punch, “Who am I to tell you / How to treat a lady?”, the closest the album gets to a girl group power-anthem. An energetic banjo and tambourine instrumental occur near the end; a listener could even be moved to dance. The following track, “Billions” slows things back down in a wash of velvety verses, slightly building drums, and an unrelenting synth line. Having been preceded by one of the more propulsive songs on the album, “Billions” feels like an unwelcome, aimless interlude. “I Have A Woman Inside My Soul,” a cover of Yoko Ono’s feminist anthem, is the standout on the album. Murr’s vocals are brought front and center, with the instrumentals providing an unassuming background. She sings in a lower register; her voice has lost its airness and has gained conviction. At the end, the instrumental along with backing vocals build back up to a modest yet satisfying finish. The final track, “You Got Me,” marks a return to the sound of the beginning of the album. The instrumental is completely pared back, with a finger-picked guitar providing the only accompaniment to Murr’s delicate lyrics. “You Got Me” is the sparsest track, both vocally and instrumentally, on the album. Murr whistles softly, bidding the listener a modest goodbye with “It’s time I get back to the party” and marking the end of our sonic shared experience.
Overall, Lake Tear of the Clouds is an understated yet confident debut from Cornelia Murr. Give it a listen; it’ll take you on a heavenly journey.