Something Comes Our Way by Balún (Review)

The trio imbues their music with a certain youthful naiveté that can endear them to all but the most cynical of souls.
Something Comes Our Way, Balun

Something Comes Our Way is Puerto Rico-based Balún’s follow-up to their 2004 Internet-released EP While Sleeping. And in the two years or so, the trio has not progressed one bit beyond the whimsical, dreamy electronic pop that made up that EP, music that owed perhaps a bit too much to the likes of Múm and Boards of Canada. The sonics — which are equal parts glitchy electronics, shimmery guitars, light strings, and drowsy accordion — still have that same penchant for nostalgic sounds that make want to make you sigh heavily whilst staring out the nearest rain-struck window, and Angelica Negron’s cooing, little-girl-daydreaming vocals are, well, still cooing and daydream-y.

Of course, I say all of that like it’s a bad thing.

Mind you, there is nothing altogether groundbreaking about Balún’s music. Throughout the disc’s dozen songs, they wander through songwriting territory that’s been thoroughly explored, not only by the aforementioned groups, but also by artists including Park Avenue Music, Björk, Piano Magic, Figurine, and Cocteau Twins. Still, the trio manages to imbue their music with a certain youthful naiveté that can probably endear them to all but the most cynical of souls.

The best tracks on here — the slowly-building “I Shouldn’t Do This” (which plays out like all of the lovely aspects of Mum’s Finally We Are No One rolled together), “Snol” (which slowly concludes with Negron’s accordion waltzing oh so beautifully against a backdrop of shoegazer-y guitars), and the cooler “Everything’s Alright” (which is composed entirely of bell-like synth cascades and ghostly electronic wisps) — are quite lovely indeed. They spotlight the group’s love for simple melodies, classical-influenced arrangements, and, of course, a child-like sense of whimsy. And when the group is on, all of these things come together in a way that is quite elegant and effortless.

Other parts of the album, however, fade into the background, even though they feature many of the same basic elements. Oftentimes it’s because there isn’t a strong enough melodic hook for things to grab onto, or because they lack the same sweeping elegance of the stronger songs. “People” and “Moving Pictures” are both bouncy, up-tempo numbers which, if you threw in slightly icier vocals, could pass for a Figurine b-sides. But unlike “I Shouldn’t Do This” or “Snol,” which are perfectly content to drift by and let the listener get drawn by the bauble-like shimmerings of guitar and accordion, they don’t have the same appealing sense of wide-eyed wonder. Rather, they feel more forced and artificial.

Balún really is at their best when they slow their music way down, let it drift about… and completely and fully embrace all of the sonic clichés that are prevalent in their music, be it the soft lullaby vocals or the woozy accordion. When they relish in those things, all the while relying wholly on atmosphere and ambience, that’s when their music is at its best and most affecting (case in point: “They’re Calling Us,” which recasts “Snol” in a somnambulistic haze). Balún has a rare ability to take such clichés to their outermost expression and push right on through, subsequently inverting and making them sound unique and fresh once more. If you’re not feeling too cynical, that is.

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