Megan Buick’s self-titled album feels like the aural equivalent of Jan Svankmajer’s surreal, stop-motion film Alice—a fractured take on the Lewis Carroll classic. Svankmajer’s imaginative recreation of Wonderland constantly treads the fine line between delightfully imaginative and eerily unsettling; Buick’s lo-fi psychedelic folk embraces a similar duality.
The album’s first track, “Apollo,” rocks and creaks, sways and heaves with the gentle motion of a boat as Buick sings about her “heart yearning for the songs of sailors in a modern sea.” Her prayer to Apollo relies on a simple theatricality; she creates the steady roll of the ocean, a full moon and sirens calling from a distant shore out of a few odd pieces of percussion and a … guitar line.
On Buick’s album there’s always something a little creepy within or surrounding the sweetness. The swirling, haunting strains of “21st Century Rimbaud,” lead into the nearly children’s show sing-a-long of “Crocodile Jitterbug.” The album’s fourth track is a sweet, honest, almost saccharine love song. Buick invites a lover to dance, make origami and then stomp on their folded friends. Save for some honest jabs at too-cool-adult attitudes (wearing black turtlenecks and smoking cigarettes), this could just as easily be a song encouraging healthy, active playtime for children. This is followed by the ghostly echoes of “flygirl.”
Similarly, later in the album, there’s the playful tune “Arrakisian Love Song,” about meeting a lover. Even with a guitar line that skips through a field of daisies and enough ooh-oohs to get even the most cynical human humming, the chorus offers up a very macabre phrasing for shared love: “I drank from the heart that was bleeding.” If the grim lyrics get lost between all the sweetness of the guitar and Buick’s lilting delivery, she follows “Arrakisian” with the creepy, trippy “Lydian Dreams.” Buick serves up repeated and elliptical imagery, droned over distorted and looped voices sounding like the last, lingering traces of a nightmare before waking.
John Schlotfelt loves steak tacos, whiskey and baseball. He hates the new balk rules, racism and jokes about airplane food.