When the benign noisy haze lifts on “Souvenirs”—the opening track of Midnight Movies 2007 release Lion the Girl—it does so to reveal a woman’s voice decidedly vintage in the hollow haunts it travels. Pitched as encompassing “noir L.A., replete with mystery, desire, and yearning,” Lion the Girl seems stamped with shadows of the past, pulling listeners in under the macabre curiosity of old film noir, a world where twisted beauty is found amid saturated darkness.
Gena Olivier’s vocals are either an obvious homage to Nico, or a shameless copycat without the range or inimitability. There’s also something about Gena’s delivery that makes you wish she’d start softly crying about horses made of sticks and being shot down by her baby (bang, bang). All of this holding hands with the past isn’t a bad thing for the album. But, it does take more than one listen to appreciate why Midnight Movies’ new endeavor serves as more than pretty background noise that’s reminiscent of the theoretical result of Nico’s little sister singing for Metric and Portishead’s side project.
The newly transformed quartet (being previously comprised of only two members) does best on tracks like “Lion Song,” where the understated tambourines and fuzzy guitar explore midnight-blue corners of sound behind minimalist lyrics. Forgettable tracks like “Patient Eye” and “Parallel Paramour” intersperse the album, occurring when the band’s songwriting crawls slowly in an attempt toward prettiness.
Like hypnotism, Lion the Girl comes over you as a process, one that works if you believe in it.