The Lulls began life as Ed Ghost Tucker, one of the best new local bands in recent years, with a dreamy and diverse indie rock sound that recalled the likes of Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors while offering a versatile instrumental approach of their own. Since then, the group underwent some changes, with vocalist/keyboardist Michaela Wilson leaving the group in early 2015. With the dynamic of the group slightly altered, the three remaining members changed their name and, in the process, their stylistic approach as well.
Island of Daughters, The Lulls' debut full-length, is a more immediate and accessible effort than Ed Ghost Tucker's abbreviated output. In short, it's a pop record with other elements blended in, rather than vice versa. The hooks are noticeable, the melodies are intoxicating, and The Lulls sound fully formed just a little over a year after making their transformation official. The plinking piano chords underneath the jangly riff of "Bruise" adds up to these musicians' catchiest track to date, with a layer of vocal harmonies recalling those of Local Natives. Similarly, "Answers" has a playfully funky strut that feels radio friendly, even though it subtly builds up into an intoxicating series of sonic layers much more complex than its intro suggests.
The Lulls' greatest strength is in the progression of their songs. Their hooks are strong, and a first listen to any track should prove at the very least interesting within the first 30 seconds. But it's often where the band goes after that initial impression that leads to the greatest reward. "Calafia," for instance, leads off with a Foals-like haunted alt-funk sound. Yet, from there, it descends into an eerie ambient middle section and eventually an extended coda loaded with reverb and a heavy synth bassline. Other surprises are in store on "Morocco," which begins as a stark, strummed dirge before escalating into a time-signature-shifting psychedelic section with one of the coolest riffs on the album.
Though The Lulls' previous incarnation only had a handful of releases, this debut effort should effectively set them apart as an entirely separate and arguably stronger band. That's to be expected; any group of musicians that continues to play together and doesn't get better should probably break up. Instead, The Lulls continue to strengthen their songwriting, offering an album that's intricate, mature and unexpectedly catchy.