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Lillian and the Muses, 'Lillian and the Muses'

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Lillian and the Muses, Lillian and the Muses - COURTESY
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  • Lillian and the Muses, Lillian and the Muses

(Self-released, digital)

In a 2017 Washington Post book review of Elif Batuman's The Idiot, critic Elaine Margolin expressed concern about "a growing and upsetting trend among so many young people who seem to have given up on the possibility of love and jubilation and euphoria before they have even tasted it." Channeling but also challenging Margolin's sentiment, Lillian and the Muses' new self-titled EP serves up four sweetly sung melodies about love's sundry contradictions, bitter heartbreak and spicy romance, sprinkled with a pinch of salt.

On opener "Cigarettes," a song as effervescent as a soda gently shaken under the California sun — the music video was shot in Los Angeles — vocalist Lillian Siebert unpacks the paradox of love's repetitive disappointments and enticing allure.

There's a facility of style at play here. Siebert uses her pop sensibility to sugarcoat painful "memories of last summer ... sneaking with the boy next door." She reflects on a love she wasn't so sure she had to offer to somebody who wasn't so sure he wanted it.

Listeners suspecting callowness beneath the singer's poignant reflections, however, will be duped. The album's second track, "Devil in the Details," suggests, or confesses, that such supposed naïveté is the true artifice. "The devil's in the details," Siebert sings, "and good and bad is just the tip of the scales."

Fans of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval will likely take to this track. The vocals are sultry, sophisticated and anguished. The guitar's heavy downstrokes mirror a sure-footed bass line, adding aural density to the thick, swampy thud of the kick drum. (Think David Lynch's "Pink Room" from Fire Walk With Me.)

The song "Clay" owes a lot to '90s-era neo-soul artist Erykah Badu. The similarities are numerous, from the laid-back, boom-clack beats — courtesy here and throughout of Vermont rapper and producer Jarv — to the lush, airy vocals. But the main difference is velocity: The Muses hold back the kind of energy Badu and her backup band exude.

Closing track "Last Call" may be a tad on the nose, from its apt title to the outtakes at the end. Fitting, perhaps, for an album about love's abiding lack of a perfect ending.

Nostalgic, intimate and crafted with artful self-awareness, Lillian and the Muses is evenly split between a solemn longing for and a playful distancing from the vagaries of modern courtship.

Released on July 30 (with music video release dates on August 6 and 20), this EP couldn't have dropped at a better time. For a brief 13 minutes and 51 seconds, Lillian and the Muses' soul-pop strives to cool down what's been a terribly hot summer so far. My guess is that it'll attract enough fans from across the Green Mountains to pull it off.

Lillian and the Muses is available for streaming on Spotify. Lillian and the Muses perform on Thursday, August 19, 9 p.m., at Radio Bean in Burlington. Must show proof of vaccination to attend.