CLARE & THE REASONS: The Movie [Frog Stand]

Poor, pitiful Pluto. So cold, so dark, so distant. And now that it’s no longer a planet, Clare Muldaur Manchon feels very sad. Breaking the bad news in “Pluto” and “Pluton,” the two cuts that bookend The Movie, Manchon’s soprano quavers like a falling soufflé, a trio of saccharine strings playing pizzicato in the background. It’s a beautifully lush, ‘40s-era opening, her voice resonant with romance. The Berklee-educated daughter of Geoff Muldaur (guitarist of the gleefully retro Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band), Manchon sings as if she’s been time-traveling like this all her life, as if it were perfectly natural to swing this effortlessly from jazz to folk to noir and back again. The smartly contemporary songs overflow with style, whether she’s writing about bohemian break-ups (“Alpha-bet City”), waxing philosophical (“Love Can Be A Crime”) or dreaming of wedded bliss (“Cook For You”). The Movie is a slyly earnest, bubbly concoction, its melodies buoyant and its lyrics sharp. With help from Gregoire Maret, Van Dyke Parks and Sufjan Stevens, the seven-piece Brooklyn band packs all the high drama of a full orchestra: sharp, urbane and deliciously unstuck in time. []

—Kenny Berkowitz