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Luna Rossa: Secrets & Lies

Masterful second acoustic set from Helder and Edwards.

Some people are so busy and talented they make the rest of us look like dumb-ass slackers.

Case in point: Anne-Marie Helder and Jonathan Edwards. A year on from the shimmering Luna Rossa debut Sleeping Pills & Lullabies, and just months after the latest Panic Room wonder Incarnate, they’re back with their second Luna outing. And the secret can now be told: it’s even stronger than the first.

The things which made Sleeping Pills such a delight – simplicity, acoustic interplay and so on – remain. This time, however, the sound is more fleshed out. Hints of electric instrumentation dance with flute and strings, there are charming flashes of humour, and oh, Helder’s voice! It’s become an instrument that can hold all the musical seasons in one track.

Secrets & Lies is breathtakingly confident and, in places, joyous. Opener Aurora takes nearly half a minute to allow a pulse of sound to build before Edwards’ glorious piano

loops pitch in. It’s nearly three minutes before Helder begins to sing. In myth, Aurora is the goddess of the dawn, and this album cleverly signals the Lunas becoming interested in the light rather than the dark.

But this album is no mere slab of sunshine. The title track tells a tale of betrayal, and Helder’s delivery of the simple lyrics – _‘How could life lead us so astray?’ _- is deliciously balanced between restraint and emotion. Tim Hamill’s Telecaster shimmers like a snake’s skin on a salt lake. The band’s intimate understanding of depression – previously explored on The Dark Room – is underlined on The Black Dog. Helder and Edwards’ musical touch is exceptional, handling bleak territory with gentle insight.

Unexpectedly, however, Secrets is also immense fun. On _Flowers In My Hair _Helder wittily quotes Frère Jacques in the refrain, and Happy Little Song is a proper laugh – Gong meets Kate Bush by way of recorders and percussive tinklings. Get your curly shoes on for some pixie dancing, children!

Wit aside, this is also an emotionally weighty offering. Closer No Chords Left – a song of exhaustion and uncertainty – will tear your heart out. Another highlight is their take on Randy Newman’s I’ve Been Wrong Before. Dusty Springfield served up the definitive cover, but these guys run it close.

From the liquid flow of Disappointment to the sweet beauty of _The Harmony _and the broodiness of Rundgren cover Tiny Demons, this is an album of many moods, one which marks Luna Rossa’s coming of age. Balancing light and shade, tenderness and strength, Secrets & Lies adds up to an album of comfort, power and joy.