Two Loons For Tea are one of those subtle bands, whose self-titled album became an underground hit based purely on talent. It's an intoxicating mix of trip-hop, catchy pop, jazz and smooth guitar. The main flaw is that it's way too short -- only nine songs, but what exceptional pop songs they are.
It opens with the gorgeous "Brickwall," an expansive trip-hop song with some sharp percussion and incomparable layering. But the faster pace melts away into a sweet, slightly murky pop song, which is made even more lovely by Sarah Scott murmurs, "They always interfere with love/she's out on the town/still wants a boy, a boy..."
For the rest of their debut, Two Loons For Tea stretch their wings with atmospheric pop songs tinged with jazzy brass, ending with a pair of darker melodies. "Strangers" is a shimmering, dense song, while the finale "Parachute" is halting, melodic, soft and a little nervous-sounding. It's an exquisite end to an otherwise confident ending.
"Two Loons For Tea" had pretty much no hype when it was first released, but it slipped into music-lovers' collections anyway. Their sound is a sort of collision between Portishead and Emiliana Torrini, with a dash of Mazzy Star thrown in -- and while jazz, trip-hop and pop don't usually mesh so well, here they blend perfectly.
The band itself is the brainchild of Scott and Jonathan Kochmer, and their work is perfectly in sync. Scott provides strong vocals that can be throaty, sweet or fragile. Instrumentally, Kochmer steals the show by playing three guitars -- electric, synth, and some exquisite acoustic playing in "Neon Nothing," where it's just Scott's voice and some guitar. It sounds like they're playing in a coffeehouse.
Backing them are a number of other musicians, who contribute percussion, hammond and piano, even more guitar, and something called "effects" -- I think it means little chimes and additional electronic blips. Jessica Lurie and Skerik also contribute saxophones to three songs, adding a jazzy flavor to straightforward trip-hop tunes.
Two Loons for Tea made only a little splash with their self-titled debut, but it's an album that overflows with beauty and musical depth. A must-have.