Every now and then, new music comes out of the blue and catches you totally by surprise. Such is the case with the self-titled debut CD by husband-and-wife duo Chris Root and Juju Stulbach, late of the bossa nova pop trio Mosquitos.
This is the kind of record that begs descriptors like idyllic, pastoral, romantic and dreamy. Full of supremely sunny melodies, airy grooves and nothing even remotely rocking, Undersea Poem is like a romantic getaway to the beach. Which, in fact, it is: The album was recorded after months of woodshedding on a beach in Mexico.
The Brazilian-born Stulbach and American-born Root have crafted a mood as much as a record, and do a fabulous job of delivering it. The wispy instrumental opener, "Juju's Theme," works as an intro, and the album really kicks in with the second track, "Makes Me Happy." The duo sometimes sounds like the Japanese dream-pop band Sugar Plant, and other times resembles a pastoral counterpoint to the underrated indie Americana husband-and-wife duo Utah Carol. This is especially true on several shorter instrumental tracks like "Driving Song," "Keep Off the Dunes" and the eerie, whistle-based "Ants."
Root plays most of the instruments (with help from several pals), with notable contributions from trumpet player Michael Leonhart, who has played with Steely Dan. Stulbach sings in a bell-clear voice, with Root joining in when he feels like it.
Making music that is simultaneously deep and light is tricky, but Undersea Poem does just that.