Listening to the music of Julian Lynch, I can’t help but feel like I know the guy. Much like James Murphy’s omnipresent hipster from “Losing My Edge,” a character like Lynch exists in college towns across America. He was there at the potluck on Friday. He brought the dank red pepper hummus. He was there at the used book store, thumbing through a copy of Adorno’s Essays on Music. He was there in your living room last night. He blew your mind with the guidance of a shaman, showing you great YouTube videos on an evening of stoned internet exploration. Through his interviews and his music, he seems like the kind of guy you want hanging around, a chill, down-to-earth dude who always has a funny or interesting remark in his back pocket.
It’s worth noting, then, that Lynch is currently getting his PhD in a joint ethnomusicology and anthropology program at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. (In the future, when ethnomusicologists are breaking down the dynamics of college town music scenes from the early part of the 21st century, a guy like Lynch will definitely have his place.) In an interview with Tiny Mix Tapes, he pointed to the fact that his living situations and environments are heavily connected to his musical output. He highlights the “stimulation and confusion of an unfamiliar town” as the nexus of a creative spark and productivity, and while certainly not specific to this particular mode of being, those who have experienced the often nomadic existence of post-graduate studies should be able to identify with this feeling of being uprooted and then having to find your own creative or intellectual roots in relative isolation from the comfortable womb of friends and places, a life that was more or less estimable.
On Terra, his third proper LP, Lynch continues to make music to soundtrack this kind of necessary retreat into one’s self. The title track sets the album’s tone as a whole: it’s a confident stride, but still solidly within the repertoire that Lynch has already firmly established. Employing all of the strongest weapons in his arsenal — lilting clarinet, earthy bass, mellow gold harmonica, and bouncy tablas — it’s a great way to start the record. Another highlight, “Canopy” features an easy rhythmic gallop, heady guitar flourishes, and a conversational clarinet, with pinched vocals bringing to mind Woods (a band whose role in this sort of plaid-wearing, earthy lo-fi aesthetic is often understated).
Whether because of the aforementioned reasons or simply the need to find a peaceful place away from the world’s worries, his music is still characterized by a hazy warmth and comfort, that first cold beer and bite of dinner after a long day. “Fort Collins” is a peaceful ode to one of Lynch’s favorite places, a city that he’s referred to as “kind of like Madison, but with mountains.” “On Eastern Time” seems to be another dedication to a place Lynch has once inhabited. Quiet and meditative, with a sigh and a shrug of the shoulders, it’s the sound of resigned disconnection with friends and family.
Sure, Lynch does little to vary the formula on Terra. Like his music, which is always pleasant and restrained, he would rather operate on confidence and refinement than risk overreaching. This lack of progression might be bothersome if his music weren’t already singular in the first place; there aren’t many bedroom pop artists out there crafting nostalgia-laced lo-fi tunes willing to incorporate tabla and clarinet. And while he maintains the sort of escapist mood that also characterizes his Ridgewood, NJ peers in Ducktails and Real Estate (projects in which he’s often involved), Terra clearly isn’t meant for a sun-soaked day at the beach. It’s meant for quiet evenings at home, for slow living, for monotonous days of insularity, idealized but never unrealistic.