[one_half]On his 2013 Maston debut, Shadows, singer/songwriter/sideman Frank Maston presented a nostalgic chamber pop beholden to California studio wizards like Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson, and Phil Spector. Four years later, the Los Angeles native’s follow-up, Tulips, shifts focus to the era’s European film music, specifically that of the French New Wave and Ennio Morricone. Maston was drawn to these overseas influences after extensive touring in Europe that included living part-time in the Netherlands (hence, “Tulips”) to play keyboards for Jacco Gardner. Completely self-made until it was sent to Jasper Geluk for mastering, the almost entirely instrumental album relies on grooving electric guitar and bass, Mellotron, and other vintage sounds to craft loose, whimsical lounge music for the indie crowd. The organ pop of “Old Habits,” for instance, features a single-line keyboard melody over sustained chords, flute voice, and drum kit punctuated by a generous helping of vibraslap. “Chase Theme I” instead draws on spaghetti Western guitar music. It includes a backing chorus that, as on select tracks, adds atmosphere without contributing any lyrics. The vibraslap returns on the more uptempo “Evening,” a brief scene-setter that seems to fade out just as we reach the top of the escalator. The wistful “Turning In” homes in on classic Michel Legrand with a melancholy melody that transforms into lighter rock after it gains a rhythm section midway through. With 12 tracks totaling less than half an hour, each song quickly locks into a vibe, then ends, often abruptly, to move on to the next two-minute-or-so track. It might have been nice to spend more time in each of Maston’s musical vistas, but the record’s rotating tempos and consistent palette make it ideal for auto-repeat for those who are left wanting more.
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