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Laughing and Crying

Clare and the Reasons combine qualities of whimsy and melancholy to inspire imaginations

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Thanks to a blend of urbane pop, jazz and blues, Clare and the Reasons' 2007 debut album, The Movie, inspires cinematic vistas of narrative to unfold in the mind.

Actually, the Brooklyn-based chamber-pop group really wasn't thinking of movie music at the time it wrote and recorded the album, said lead singer and songwriter Clare Muldaur Manchon.

"The title was a total afterthought. It's for sure not supposed to be movie music at all, but it does tend to be little fictional narratives making up each song's own little world," said Manchon in an e-mail interview.

Although Manchon claims not to be an expert, she adores the movie soundtracks of Bernard Herrmann and Henry Mancini, as well as pre-1960 movie musicals. She doesn't care for most film music of today. "(It's gotten) to the point that it ruins films for me. It's just usually a copy of a copy of a copy. So sad!"

The music of Clare and the Reasons recalls a time when sophisticated lyrics and arrangements ruled the pop charts, but it never feels retro or vintage. Manchon, who is the daughter of folk-blues legend Geoff Muldaur, demurred when asked if she finds depth lacking in a lot of today's popular music.

"I think there is lots of sophistication in music today more and more, (such as) Grizzly Bear, My Brightest Diamond, etc. But I think it has to sadly be disguised more than before. Back in the day, it seems you could have a pretty complicated pop song that would resound with people and also say something musically, but I feel there is a resurgence coming."

Speaking of My Brightest Diamond, that fellow band of Brooklynites will headline a concert that will also feature Clare and the Reasons this Saturday night at Solar Culture Gallery.

Of My Brightest Diamond, Manchon said simply, "I love and admire that group big-time. We are on tour with them for three months."

Turns out one of the hotbeds of cool, creative and up-and-coming bands is Brooklyn, which is home to groups as diverse as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, A Place to Bury Strangers, Au Revoir Simone, Barbez, Parts and Labor, Say Hi to Your Mom, We Are Scientists, Vietnam, Oxford Collapse and Death Vessel, among many others.

When asked about the Brooklyn scene, Manchon said, "Life in Brooklyn is a musical haven; its standards are very high, and (its) pace pretty quick."

Clare and the Reasons is a six-piece band, but The Movie includes guest appearances by legendary composer-arranger-producer Van Dyke Parks, singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and Swiss jazz-harmonica player Gregoire Maret.

Most of the Reasons' songs are created by Manchon and her multi-instrumentalist husband, Olivier Manchon. The couple met while they were students at the Berklee College of Music. "I write the songs (music and lyrics), and then Olivier writes the arrangements," she said. "But we share and look to each other along the way with both parts."

Their music combines qualities of whimsy and melancholy. "We laugh and cry a lot," Manchon said. "I get really bored when bands take themselves too seriously, yet it's important to be very serious about your craft as a musician, so we try to have well-crafted/arranged music and act like goofballs on stage."

Clare and the Reasons are hard at work writing songs for the follow-up to The Movie. Recording will begin this winter, with a release hoped for next year.

In the meantime, if you search the Internet, you may be able to find two recent singles: a gorgeous cover of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (it was included on the European release of The Movie) and the band's quickie single "Obama Over the Rainbow," a dreamy adaptation of the classic Judy Garland tune in which Manchon uses her sweet, youthful voice to intone "Obama" over and over.

Although the band didn't presume that the song would help Barack Obama get elected, its members naturally were overjoyed to learn the results. Manchon says she and the Reasons recorded the tune "because if you say something enough, it will come true, and it did! I think it was a tiny, tiny spirit lifter."

Ultimately, Manchon said, she hopes the music of her band inspires the imaginations of its listeners.

"I just want people's imaginations to run wild with them when they hear the music. When you make a record, you're giving it away forever, so I hope people find room to play in it."

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