Out now, Subpop, lulucmusic.com
As opposed to the unmistakable lushness he brought to Sharon Van Etten’s latest release, Are We There, here producer Aaron Dessner takes a backseat—like way, way back—on this Australian duo’s Sub Pop debut. Accompanied by Steve Hassett, Zoe Randell is an effortless singer, and her dreamy vocals—like those of a post-rock Judy Collins, or Nico—seem to magically hover around these 10 lightly embellished songs that require little else. Well-placed soft touches, like the delicate thrum of nylon strings or a gentle piano chord, do the rest, with tender lyrics about the natural world, love, and the ephemeral. If you happen to notice a Nick Drake-like quality, a certain hushed and quiet tone, that’s no mistake; the band is good friends with Drake’s producer, Joe Boyd, and brings forth a similar rainy-day, coffee-shop-ready style. Yet the contemplative Passerby could also soundtrack any number of other activities—like a restful nap with your favorite cat, helpfully suggested by its cover art—and, in contrast with Sub Pop’s increasingly frenetic, experimental roster, is just as refreshing.