Sean Lennon’s work has always been under a microscope, surely a byproduct of being the spawn of two of the most enormous cultural icons of the past 100 years. I admit that I had to check my own levels of criticism while listening to The GOASTT (The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger) ‘s latest release, Midnight Sun, and remember that I am neither listening to Sergeant Pepper’s nor a Yoko Ono conceptual piece, although, in some ways, it felt like I was doing both. Perhaps the worlds’ critical ears can help us understand why Lennon has always seemed most comfortable making esoteric noise outside of the music world’s main drag.
On Midnight Sun, Lennon and partner in music and in life, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, turn drifting folk melodies into kaleidoscopic sound swirls. My favourite track on the record, “Johannesburg”, evokes the same feeling I get when I wake up from a dream that I know was pleasant despite not remembering the details. Kemp Muhl’s voice is sweet and slinky and, when paired with a mixbag of drippy synth and percussion sounds, is still lighter than air. The gentle bursts of muted trumpet add a splash of colour, changing the dreamland-scape just enough to wake you in time for the title track. “Poor Paul Getty” is another favourite – it sounds like a Kinks song infused with pop lyrics and a generous helping of synth. “Golden Earring”, a cover of a 1940s tune by Peggy Lee, captured me for a while, too. The first few seconds gripped me and didn’t let go. These two tracks exemplify the modern / retro duality that is so prevalent on this record and, I think, accounts for so much of its charm.
Something seems a bit different with Midnight Sun. Some of the arcane peculiarity of their previous work is still there, but it’s blended with hooks and a psychedelic aroma that I would associate with Tame Impala before I would even think of The GOASTT. Famous parents or no famous parents, this record is incredible.