Shadows is the third album by Australian singer/songwriter Lenka. Her name might not sound familiar, but you’ve surely heard her music as it’s been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and in the movie Moneyball, as well as appearing in advertisements for Apple, Coke and Old Navy. Billy Crystal even sang part of “The Show” — a sunshiny single from her self-titled debut — at the 2012 Academy Awards. But you might be more familiar with the cheerful Melanie Martinez rendition from season three of The Voice.
Shadows is a spell-binding mix of pop and folk and Lenka is describing it as an album of “lullabies for adults.” I wasn’t surprised to learn this because I started listening to it at night while falling asleep shortly after I bought it. That said, it’s certainly not a collection of boring lullabies. I know the idea of lullabies — songs intended to put you to sleep — would seem to imply that it’s boring, but that truly is not the case here. While these songs aren’t as immediately catchy as the singles from Lenka’s first two albums, they’re all quite gorgeous with layers and layers of rich and exquisitely-produced sound. Lenka herself plays glockenspiel and vibraphone on the album, which also features cello and violin — among other strings — as well as an assortment of bells.
Lenka wrote the songs on Shadows while she was pregnant, something she found very inspirational. The song “Two Heartbeats,” for example, is literally about pregnancy. “Two heartbeats, one body,” she sings, her voice gentle, and it’s easy to imagine her singing it to her baby while recording it. And upbeat songs like “After The Winter” and “Nothing Here But Love” could almost be considered children’s music and would likely be as enjoyed by kids as they’re sure to be by adults.
I don’t know why she called such a colorful album Shadows, but it’s not all cheerful songs about being pregnant. The darkest of the 11 songs is “Monsters.” “Don’t be afraid of what’s under the bed / it’s just all those memories you tried to forget / those feelings of shame and the ones of regret,” she sings and I should think it might frighten a child. (It actually gave me goosebumps.) “Nothing” is also an eerie song with heavy subject matter: death. “When death called your name / and it took you from me / you should never, never, never believe / that I could go on alone / ’cause now that you are gone I’ve got nothing but the rain,” she sings, her voice quite haunting. Shadows might be Lenka’s most subtle album to date, but it’s also her deepest.