Luna Rossa – Sleeping Pills & Lullabies


Review by David Waterfield

Firefly Music: Distributed by Nova

Sleeping Pills & Lullabies is the debut album by Luna Rossa, an acoustic side project by Jonathan Edwards and Anne-Marie Helder of Panic Room. Far from being a series of musical sketches that cry out to be completed by a full band, Sleeping Pills & Lullabies is an elegant and beautifully produced piece of work. With this album, Edwards and Helder have created a varied and beguiling collection; delicate, passionate and introspective in places, playful, uplifting and tranquil in others. It is this balance of light and shade, coupled with sensitive arrangements and a willingness to share personal emotions in their songs that gives Sleeping Pills & Lullabies considerable emotional depth.

Album opener ‘The Dark Room’, built around Edwards’s rolling piano refrain, is a thoughtful song about seeing photographs of yourself from years ago – the person that you were, the hopes and dreams that you had – and how life unravels as the years go by.  By contrast the Pentangle-like ‘Mad About You’ is a lighter and sunnier exploration of love seen from both sides of the gender divide. There are classical touches on several of the tracks – most notably ‘La Clef’ and the string quartet that adorns ‘Fight Or Flight’, whilst tasteful string arrangements on six of the tracks add a richness and depth to the album’s sound.

All of the songs on the album are composed by Edwards and Helder with the sole exception of ‘The Book Of Love’, originally recorded by The Magnetic Fields and more recently covered by Peter Gabriel for his Scratch My Back album. For me, Luna Rossa’s version surpasses them both, bringing out the beauty of the melody and transforming Stephin Merritt’s care worn song about love songs into something genuinely tender and uplifting. ‘Cloud’ sounds like nothing so much as Kate Bush – and as a massive fan of Kate that’s not a compliment I would bestow easily or readily. Ethereal, wistful and delicate, the track calls to mind Bush’s 50 Words For Snow or the piano driven sections of ‘The Ninth Wave’.  The track is the calm before the storm of ‘Gasp’, the dramatic and unsettling album closer which layers heavy piano chords and strings over an insistent vocal loop and an electronic rhythm.

On an album devoid of drums, bass and electric guitar (bar one track) the gorgeous voice of Anne-Marie Helder is, necessarily, front and centre and on Sleeping Pills & Lullabies she absolutely shines. Fans of Panic Room will find much to appreciate on this album but I fully expect that it will have a broader appeal beyond the band’s existing fan base. Sleeping Pills & Lullabies is a gem of an album; touching, sad, introspective, tender, hopeful, dark, beautiful and ultimately life-affirming. One of my albums of the year, no question.

Luna Rossa – Sleeping Pills & Lullabies9 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. The Dark Room
  2. Heart On My Sleeve
  3. Mad About You
  4. The Book Of Love
  5. Scream At The Sky
  6. Leaving For The Last Time
  7. Fight Or Flight
  8. La Clef
  9. Rise Up
  10. Cloud
  11. Gasp