Caroline Murmurs

Japanese born singer-songwriter Caroline Lufkin began making a name for herself with last year’s "Where’s My Love” single, on which she formally split ties with her could’ve-been Japanese pop future and entered the overcrowded world of electro pop. But while the concise melody and winterish arrangement of bells, piano and click-and-cut percussion saved "Love” from overdosing on cuteness or production extras, most of her debut record doesn’t fare as well. On much of Murmurs, Lufkin’s voice blends into the sometimes too sparse, sometimes overarching production, feeling like more a pleasant addition to the mix than the much-needed focus. Her decision to bypass the use of samples is a wise one, but there was obviously quite a bit of pre-production digital manipulation done, most of which feels extraneous. "Where’s My Love” worked so well because of its subtlety, its sense of voice and restrained build. She’s able to recapture some of that magic with "Pink & Black” and beautiful closer "Winter” because she keeps the extras either in check or in taste, but it’s just too rare an occurrence to make Murmurs the kind of distinct and powerful debut it could have been. (Temporary Residence)