Headed by the husband and wife duo of Clare Muldaur Manchon and Oliver Manchon, Clare and the Reasons’ follow-up to 2009’s Arrow is a balanced mixture of feather-light vocals, expertly arranged instrumentation and witty, smart lyrics. The Brooklyn-based band has created something special for listeners with their third album, KR-51. Taking eight months to create, it skates over the lines of all genres to produce songs that are as unique as they are memorable.
KR-51 steps further away from the band’s 2007 debut, The Movie, but continues more in the direction of the pair’s sophomore album, Arrow. While there are some similarities, KR-51 allows for more sorrow and sadness to be felt with each swoon and every soar of the vocals and instruments alike. Clare’s ethereal, childlike voice is equal parts soothing and beautiful, with a melodic rhythm that is complemented by husband Oliver’s skillful arrangements. These can range from calming to catchy, depending on the track.
The album’s most redeeming quality is its unobtrusive nature, evoking the same comfortable familiarity as a favorite t-shirt: it floats around you like it just belongs there. Opening with the sweet melody of “The Lake,” Clare’s voice is the main attraction, never overpowered by the sophisticated orchestral sound and flow of background vocals. In “Make Them Laugh,” another talent of Clare and the Reasons is made obvious: that of a storyteller. Whimsical lyrics and vocals, accompanied early on by a light mixture of strings, paint a bittersweet and nostalgia-filled picture, transporting listeners to wherever it is the band wants to take them. Another favorite, the dark and mysterious “Bass Face,” makes it hard not to drum along as it goes from hard-hitting to poppy in seconds, keeping you guessing and wanting more. “PS” combines a catchy, slightly distorted guitar riff with pure, sing-song vocals to give the album a more experimental feel.
While the first half is spot-on, the second half of the album leaves the listener wanting something more, like a hunger that’s never quite satisfied. It does hold a few standouts, though, with the hauntingly simple “Last Picture Show” and the melodic mixture that brings to mind songs from a forgotten era in “Westward.”
While it may not be for everyone, one thing is plainly obvious after listening to KR-51: it’s music that’s meant to be felt, not just heard.