New Zealander Jonathan Bree—formerly of Sub Pop twee act The Brunettes—inherited a stack of classical records and did something most people never do with inherited classical records: he listened to them, allowing the dissonance of Tchaikovsky’s ballets and Béla Bartók’s reimagined folk tunes to seep into and vivify his own pop deconstructions. A Little Night Music, his second solo LP (the first, The Primrose Path, relied heavily on navel-gazing “woe-is-me-I’m-a-white-male-in-my-thirties” tropes, as his own press release delicately puts it), wisely stays away from the epic and operatic, instead allowing classical instrumentation—kettle drums, a plinking celeste—to undergird and drape across his otherwise straightforward compositions, with Bree’s voice booming from somewhere just below his tracks’ equators, sounding like Scott Walker in a Lynchian dream sequence.
In fact, dreaminess is the fog through which he sends “Murder,” whose video we’re premiering today. But it’s not the hazy nostalgia of Microcastle-era Deerhunter or the slightly malevolent gauze of Beach House. “Murder” is at once more familiar and more disorienting than that. The song centers around Bree’s piano, which picks out a simple circular melody, a few bum notes tripping up its otherwise easy gait. “Now you don’t feel safe in your sweet home,” he sings as a muted bass and tippled snare come in. The song’s condemnation of what he calls New Zealanders’ “xenophobic racism” is eerie—and that’s before a high harmonic female voice rends the song, and the pleasant drawing-room scene of the video, like a sheet.
A Little Night Music track list
A Little Night Music is out October 23 on Lil’ Chief.