Ukelele typically conjures up images of beach bonfires and Hawaiian flowers. But the ukulele-fronted Lulu & the Lampshades hails from a different sort of Isle – a decidedly soggier one. The British folk-pop quartet has mixed the breezy instrument with violin, glockenspiel, flute and the kitchen sink for some delicately whimsical tunes for their debut EP, Cold Water. The four-song EP flirts from heartening to melancholy and back, all interlaced with soul-bearing harmonies from singers Luisa and Heloise. If that weren’t endearing enough, the band also performs with dancers dressed as lamps at their live shows. Win.
A practitioner of the everything-is-an-instrument theory (besides ukulele, she plays melodica and crockery), singer Luisa Gerstein is the namesake and lead songwriter for Lulu & the Lampshades. Through the EP, Luisa’s dusky vocals lend a world-weary edge to songs that would otherwise float into twee. This is no more true than single “Cold Water,” where Luisa ode to loneliness takes center stage even as trumpet and Ugandan harp flow through the background. She shows her more reflective side with “Moccasin Mile” and “Demons,” often more impressive with her melodic sighs than her lyrical content.
But the band’s quirky character is best seen in the previously released “Cups.” The song takes its chorus from the Carter Family folk song “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone,” and its rhythm from Luisa’s childhood percussion class. Why cups? Check out the a cappella video of Luisa and Heloise slapping out the rhythm with the aforementioned cups to understand. At the very least, you’ll be drumming along on your desk.
Lulu & The Lampshades- Cold Water (download)
Lulu & The Lampshades- Cups (download)