The Earth is Blue – Reviews


Mojo (***)
More sad hits on fifth album from the Terrastock generation’s Sonny & Cher
Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang are acid-folk’s under-sung progenitors, proof that bloodshot eyes and an aversion to soap needn’t be de rigueur for pastoral pre-eminence. On their first studio recording since 2000′s collaboration with Japanese psych titans Ghost, the Massachusetts couple have refined their bittersweet tableaux to a most exalted place. The arrangements have never sounded so liquid or pure, their voices never more empathetic than on Sometimes, its dappled groove redolent of Krukowski and Yang’s legendary previous band, Galaxie 500. The iridescent electric guitar patterns of Ghost’s Michio Kurihara are judicious throughout — especially on a brave cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” — and some watery brass interjections suggest the post-Soft Machine work of Robert Wyatt continues to find favour chez Damon & Naomi. A rarefied exemplar of genteel bliss. – Keith Cameron

Uncut (****)
Perfect pastoral pop from former Galaxie 500 duo: It’s almost two decades since Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang began making music together as two-thirds of Galaxie 500. Now effectively a trio again with Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara, they exhale the kind of swirling “perfect pop” that was the default setting of late ’80s Creation releases, leaning into the crosswinds of Fairport-era folk-rock. Yang’s self-harmonising vocals drip haiku-crisp lines, while Kurihara’s dewdrop chimes on the exquisite “Beautiful Close Double” morph into fuzzball on “House of Glass”. Covers of Caetano Veloso’s “Araca Azul” and George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are superfluous among such delicate poise.– Rob Young

Pitchfork (8.0)
Since the demise of their seminal trio Galaxie 500, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang have rather quietly cut a broad and illustrious path through the subterranean cultural underbrush, complementing their musical activities with a variety of creative projects in addition to running their astonishing publishing company, Exact Change, through which they’ve issued works by such writers as Franz Kafka, Alfred Jarry, and Antonin Artaud.And now with The Earth Is Blue, released on their new 20/20/20 imprint, they can also scratch “start record label” off their shrinking to-do list, and their timing couldn’t be better. Thanks to the recent explosion of variously mutating forms of psych-folk, the duo’s literate, atmospheric music is sounding more prescient than ever, and they operate at top form on this, their first album of new material in five years.Damon and Naomi have always had the spot-on taste, working with such first-rate collaborators as Dean Wareham in Galaxie 500, Wayne Rogers in the short-lived combo Magic Hour, and acid-folk pioneer Tom Rapp. These partnerships have often seemed unduly crucial to the success of their music, since their technical limitations as vocalists (both have gentle, unassuming voices that qualify more as pretty than powerful) and players have sometimes made their purely duo work seem constrained and repetitive.Particularly fruitful has been the pair’s recent coalition with the members of Japanese psych leviathan Ghost, beginning with the ambitious, elegiac Damon and Naomi With Ghost. Although that 2000 album contained several peaks of sublime grace, there were also points where Ghost’s expansive arrangements had an unbalanced, grafted-on quality, likely due to the fact that the musicians were composing their ideas on two separate continents. On The Earth Is Blue, however, Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara appears as a virtual third group member, and his impeccable electric guitar contributions are here fully integrated into the immovable foundation of Damon and Naomi’s earthy, intimate folk, creating the most satisfying and sheerly transfixing work of the twosome’s career.Also helping to fill out these songs are trumpeter Greg Kelley and saxophonist Bhob Rainey, and it’s their effusive playing that allows tracks like the opening “Beautiful Close Double” or the evocative “Malibran” to truly achieve liftoff. Throughout the album Kurihara’s playing is the model of tasteful restraint, best illustrated by his subtle, jazzy riffing on Naomi’s wistfully sung cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, an invitation for overwrought fretboard histrionics if ever there was one. Instead, he contents himself by laying back in the wildflowers, examining every note carefully as though it were an exotic leaf in his hands, such as on utterly gorgeous coda of the title track which closes the album with a worldly, passionate whisper. As Naomi sings on the perfectly crafted Mellow Candle-like folk-rock of “Sometimes”, “Not everything need be in doubt. Sometimes the right thing comes along.”  Matthew Murphy

The Wire
Their first new recorded work in five years, The Earth is Blue was created by the two former Galaxie 500 members over the course of 2004 at their home studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s very much a collaboration with guitarist Michio Kurihara from the Japanese group Ghost. The relationship with Kurihara is wonderfully productive, embedding the duo’s dreamy psychedelic songs into a richly layered sound that occasionally bares its teeth and threatens to turn vicious. One such moment is the close of “A Second Life,” while earlier in the same song Kurihara contributes a sublime countermelody behind Naomi’s vocals. “Ueno Station,” with its sad mandolins, is about a homeless community beneath the Tokyo rail terminus, where “The only shadow of home is rain.” Kurihara’s solo guitar emits a plantive cry, his notes falling onto the melody like snowflakes. George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is an appropriate enough cover: sung delicately and slowly, it is transformed into a daydream epic.Damon & Naomi’s gentle psych-rock approach has a timeless quality, and massages musical memory till Proustian flashbacks leap out. For me, the opener “Beautiful Close Double,” with its aching vocal harmonies and eloquent guitar, triggered recall of Fairport Convention’s 1968 What We Did On Our Holidays. The occasional brass fanfares are courtesy of trumpeter Greg Kelley and saxophonist Bhob Rainey, from Boston’s lower case improvisors nmperign.The Earth is Blue has a glorious, spacey innocence that inspires affection. It’s a welcome work from two artists who might easily have abandoned music to focus on publishing and design (they also run the Exact Change imprint, which reprints experimental literature). If so, we would have missed out on all the love packed into the title track — Kurihara’s guitar leads us out of a Caetano Veloso song and into an all-hold-hands psychedelic freefall through space, over a gentle Latin beat. – Clive Bell

The Sunday Times, London (****)
Damon and Naomi met in Boston’s Galaxie 500, kick-starting a whole school of Velvet Underground derived melancholia in the late 80′s. Subsequently exploring the limits of riff-heavy psychedelia with Magic Hour, they’ve recorded extensively as a duo in late 60′s West Coast singer-songwriter mode, and are lynchpins of an international community of like-minded musicians. The Earth Is Blue rekindles their partnership with the guitarist Michio Kurihara, of the Japanese acid-folk band Ghost, whose sensitive leads thread sinewy paths through unashamedly pretty songs, shaping drifting pieces like House Of Glass into sustained climaxes. The album’s title track is a slow burning, happy-sad classic, while George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps takes the translucent form of a medieval folk song. Sensitive souls! Harken! Tim Buckley fans! Cease your mourning! Weeping teenagers! Weep no more! The Earth is Blue. – Stewart Lee

Rolling Stone
From their early days in the influential slowcore trio Galaxie 500, ethereal indie rockers Damon and Naomi have done their best work with a third wheel. On The Earth Is Blue, the duo revisit the partnership forged half a decade ago with Michio Kurihara, guitarist for the Japanese psych-folk band Ghost. So critical are Kurihara’s contributions to the year-in-the-making disc (and first on Damon and Naomi’s own label) that the drummer and bassist actually rebuilt their studio to accommodate the tracks he created, expanding it to twenty-four tracks rather than cutting any of his gently rambling guitar lines. Kurihara’s sweet swells turn into fuzzed-out jams (“A Second Life,” “House of Glass”) alongside Naomi’s fluid bass and wraithlike vocals and Damon’s feathery cymbal play and murky poetry (“Ueno Station”‘s “Whiskey pours like teardrops fall /The gods receive them both the same”). While a version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” comes across as icy, the group fairs better with a misty take on Caetano Veloso’s “Araca Azul,” turning its own title track into a companion piece by linking both songs into a beautifully expansive, brass-tinged excursion. — Meredith Ochs

London Times
In the late 1980s Galaxie 500 were at the forefront of a tiny revolution in indie rock. Although influenced by the Velvet Underground, the Boston trio turned rock dynamics inside out, celebrating quietness, slowness and aesthetic frailty. After three albums they dissolved, and their frontman, Dean Wareham, went on to moderate success with the more prosaic Luna. Meanwhile, his former bandmates Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang retreated into the underground. They established a book imprint to publish esoteric texts, and released music so gentle and precious that it made Galaxie 500 sound bombastic.In the five years since their last, woefully overlooked, album, the pair’s brand of psychedelic folk has been adopted by a new generation of American scenesters. The Earth is Blue arrives, then, at a propitious time, with this fine duo set finally to enjoy the acclaim that has bypassed them for more than a decade. This subtle yet expansive album is fleshed out by a jazz horn section and the discreet pyrotechnics of the Japanese guitarist Michio Kurihara. And if you can stomach yet another Beatles cover, While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a perfect example of how Damon & Naomi rethink rock convention with uncommon delicacy. — John Mulvey

Chicago Sun-Times
REASONS FOR LIVING: Rock critics live for list-making, and since the Fourth of July weekend marks the halfway point of 2005, here is my list of the 10 best albums of the year to date. . .10. Damon & Naomi, “The Earth Is Blue” (20/20/20): Heartbreakingly beautiful psychedelic folk-rock from the veteran rhythm section of Galaxie 500. – Jim DeRogatis

Former members of Galaxie 500 Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang know a thing or two about psychedelic folk: Good portions of The Earth is Blue wouldn’t sound out of place next to Judy Dyble-era Fairport Convention, especially when Yang’s frail soprano is at the fore. Somehow the duo just manages to dodge triteness with lovely numbers like “Beautiful Close Double,” which mixes inoffensive platitudes (“You can’t step into the same stream twice”) with faint, to-the-hunt horns and gorgeously melting electric and acoustic guitar. The horns, as well as the acid-filigreed mood, recur on the spooky “Malibran,” which is voiced by an understated Krukowski. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” seems the perfect Beatles cover for these two, though they might also have done a trippy “Dear Prudence,” and it flutters so tremulously that you might need a hand-holder to talk you down. True, sometimes Earth’ s sound goes so ephemeral you’ll doze a little, but as a blast from the flower power past, it’s surprisingly fresh and nonprecious. — Pamela Murray Winters

The Weekly Dig (Boston)
Damon & Naomi’s fifth proper full-length under their own names is their best yet. But what does that mean? For many, their efforts as a duo have flourished — but rather fernlike, in the deep shade of the Galaxie 500. Five years ago, they collaborated with Japanese group Ghost — and the results were pretty, if a bit blurry. This time, Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara returns, contributing this record’s most gorgeous moments. What easily could’ve been an ethereal drone-fest is redeemed by a palette as perfectly chosen as it is clearly recorded. “House of Glass” carefully steps through a brisk melody, bracing itself on lush organs and Kurihara’s vines of classic fuzz. “Ueno Station” is all trains and whiskey, with long Ebowed guitars and tasteful percussive twitches. Many tracks end in blissful climaxes that continually sprout new sounds even as they disappear — no cop-out big finishes here. The title track offers a sparkling rejoinder to Paul Celan’s Holocaust poem “Deathfugue” (“Black milk of daybreak / We drink you at night”): “I drank the black milk too deep . . . but from here, the ancient sun feels new.” This points to what could be Damon and Naomi’s greatest strength as artists: their ability to turn endings into beautiful new beginnings. – Michael Brodeur

Chicago Sun Times (*** 1/2)
“No computers were used in the production of this album,” reads a note in the artwork for the latest by indie-rock icon Eric Matthews, and I doubt there was much technical wizardry involved in the new album from fellow underground heroes Damon & Naomi, either. Not that these artists are Luddites; they just value an old-fashioned approach to making their brands of beautiful, atmospheric folk-rock, with the emphasis on great instrumental sounds and strong singing and songwriting.While they will always be fondly remembered as the rhythm section of the influential trio Galaxie 500, Damon & Naomi have been making powerful albums since the mid-’90s on their own and in inspired pairings with artists such as Michio Kurihara of the Japanese band Ghost, and I’d hold their catalog up against former partner Dean Wareham’s output with his post-Galaxie band Luna any day.Here, Kurihara provides wonderfully textured guitar to the duo’s gentle rhythms and supple vocal interplay, with the originals every bit as strong as the well-chosen covers of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Caetano Veloso’s “Araca Azul.” – Jim DeRogatis

Metro (UK) (****)
Since the disintegration of Dean Wareham’s near-mythical trio Galaxie 500 in 1991, drummer Damon Krukowski and bassist Naomi Yang have occasionally materialised from the walls of their small, surrealist publishing house, Exact Change, to make music which more than matches their former band’s aptitude for fragile atmospherics. With the two reunited with guitarist Michio Kurihara of trippy Japanese folksters Ghost, this finespun collection frequently reads like a manuscript for a treasury of ethereal, oblique fables. Enhannced further by the inclusion of a funereal retelling of Brazilian master Caetano Veloso’s Araca Azul and Yangs’ unbearably tender rendering of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Genly Weeps, The Earth is Blue proves that beauty never shouts but whispers. – Nadine McBay
Two former members of Galaxie 500, Damon and Naomi utilise these records to push the envelope of cloudy, fluttering pop music. ‘A Second Life’ takes Sandy Denny to it’s modern calm and ambient conclusion. Gorgeous. On ‘Malibran’ they perform a naïve-jazz with Wyatt-esque fragility, which they also apply to their cover of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. This LP is a soft, empathic rubs of a sufferer’s forearm, accessible but with something for Wire-readers to latch onto. — Skif

DrownedInSound (****)
Released back in February – Valentine’s Day to be precise – Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang’s latest long-play release is both their first for five years and since departing long-term home Sub Pop – 20/20/20 is their own label. The former Galaxie 500 duo’s USP hasn’t changed – dreamy vocals collide with borderline psychedelic ambiance and traditional indie-pop choruses – and, similarly, the quality remains high. Early songs like charm the listener effortlessly – the solo on ‘A Second Life’ is a dash of unabashed rock splendour on a record of apologetic understatement, whilst the trumpet of ‘Malibran’ is truly mournful – but the record peaks at one of its two cover versions. D&N’s take on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is sublime; the song’s mood isn’t dramatically altered from the original George Harrison version, but its delivery is slowed and the subsequent effect on the listener seems considerably greater. Again, subtle trumpet plays a noticeable part in its appeal. That said, the comparably sorrowful guitars of ‘Ueno Station’ and the title track are just as captivating.Hardly a record you’d play to a potential partner during Valentine’s courting, such are its melancholy undertones, but The Earth Is Blue is a potent lesson in deceptively simple but exquisitely emotive songwriting, and one that continues to reveal further charms many a listen later. – Michael Diver

I haven’t gazed at my shoes in a long time. But I remember a moment in 1993 sitting in Pita Jungle with friends listening to Slowdive playing in the background eating dinner before we headed out to see Alison’s Halo. One of my friends was arguing about whether or not Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine would ever put out another album. His theory was that the disk, Loveless, had taken the guitar to the furthest point you could go from its roots. “Unless Shields goes down to Sun Studios in Nashville and starts the whole process over, he’s finished.” I told my friend he was full of it. They would have something new out soon. I was wrong. Today, My Bloody Valentine is history, like shoegazing. Damon & Naomi have much history, but they are not history. They remind me of Frank Black. Not musically, but in the sense that these are artists who continue to live in the present and move forward through time, but reviewers like myself look at their present through clouded memories of their past. In 2004 Frank finally gave in to our desire and revived his former Boston band, The Pixies, for a nostalgia tour. I must confess, I’m grateful he did, but I’m equally grateful that Damon & Naomi haven’t united with their old Boston band, Galaxie 500. A box set is just fine. The Earth is Blue, their current release, maintains a balance of using the past to move into the future. Together, with Japanese guitarist, Michio Kurihara, Damon & Naomi have declared, “This is our music, today!” Where they were once on fire with beautiful noise, Blue is an ocean of beautiful melody. The cover of this disk is a picture of water and sky connecting on the horizon with a concrete barricade at the bottom covered with carved hearts. This is a perfect metaphor for the music inside. The beautiful noise of Kurihara’s guitar rains down on us and becomes part of this melodic sea. But most of the sound wall has crumbled. In its place is warmth that only a return to the sun can bring. Blue is a blend of contrasting musical structures. For example, Kurihara’s guitar work at the end of track four, “House of Glass,” drifts like a kite in the wind. The next track, “Sometimes,” bobs up and down in a steady rhythm sounding like the grandchild of a song recorded in Topanga Cannon around 1972. Then comes a jazzy reworking of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Although the songs have three different musical structures they are blended together through tempo and tone. From beginning to end, these musical sifts create the ebb and flow of Blue. All the songs are balanced like the ocean and sky on the horizon. Obviously, Damon & Naomi stopped looking at their feet years ago and have set their gaze on that horizon. 

All Music Guide (****)
Damon & Naomi’s sixth album, The Earth Is Blue, is their first for the duo’s newly formed label, 20/20/20. The move away from Sub Pop didn’t have any effect on their sound, though; the album is as lovely and inspired as any of their last few, beginning with 1998′s Playback Singers. They manage the balance of art and emotion like few other bands, and that balance is as strong as ever here. The album also continues their collaboration with Ghost’s guitarist, Michio Kurihara, much to the duo’s benefit. His fluid lines contribute an extra layer of beauty, and he can also add some fire to their often hazy sound, as his incendiary soloing on tracks like “A Second Life” and “House of Glass” attests. Overall, the sound of the record is rich and warm, atmospheric without relying on electronics or over-production. The poetic lyrics, which are quite dense at times, add to the atmosphere, as do the sweeping chord changes, the aching vocals (mostly those of Damon Krukowski), and the parping horns that turn up on a few tracks. Naomi Yang’s vocals seem stronger than ever, positively soulful on “A Second Life,” and sweet and strong on “Beautiful Close Double.” The vocal duet on the lilting, almost country-inspired “Sometimes” is particularly nice. Going back to Galaxie 500′s cover of “Isn’t It a Pity,” Damon & Naomi have had a soft spot for George Harrison, and their cover of one of his most famous compositions, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” is a fine tribute. It takes the song at a funereal pace with a heartfelt vocal from Yang, Kurihara adding subdued guitar squiggles in the background before he lays down a subdued jazz solo at the end. The second half of the record begins to drag just a touch as the hushed and melancholy songs add up, but the fog is lifted by some soaring E-Bow guitar work by Kurihara on the majestic album closer, “The Earth Is Blue.” Most bands would have run out of ideas or a reason for being by the time they had been together as long as Damon & Naomi have. No worries about that here. The Earth Is Blue isn’t their best work, but it does include some of their most melodic (“Beautiful Close Double”), epic (“House of Glass”), and beautiful (“The Earth Is Blue,” “A Second Life”) songs, and people who have stuck with them throughout the years will be rewarded by an emotionally powerful, haunting album. Fans of the newly resurgent psych-folk scene should definitely investigate the record and the band, too. They won’t be disappointed. – Tim Sendra

Ptolemaic Terrascope
Following an amicable split with Sub Pop, home for their entire 5-disc catalogue, our friends Damon and Naomi have self-released their first studio album in five years on their brand new imprint, named after an old game, Careers, where players are given 60 points to spread across three goals in life: Fame, Fortune, and Happiness. A fruitful relationship with Ghost guitarist, Michio Kurihara finds him escalated to full-time member and his electric guitar solos are a highlight throughout. Opening with what might be the lightest, fluffiest concoction in their entire oeuvre, the horn-inflected “Beautiful Close Double” rides along on Kurihara’s gossamer guitar wings. Naomi’s vocals have never been clearer than on this release, with tracks like “A Second Life” revealing for the first time subtle nuances so tragically buried in the mixes of their previous outings.Damon’s “Malibran,” featuring the fine horn work of Greg Kelley (trumpet) and Bhob Rainey (soprano sax) adds a smooth, sexy jazz groove to the couple’s musical arsenal and is perfect for stretching out for a fireside chat with that significant other. “House of Glass” is a little too s(l)ickly sweet, (I guess it’s Naomi’s double-tracked vocals that do it), but Kurihara’s blistering guitar lines, Naomi’s groovy organ fills and Damon’s hyperkinetic drumming save the day. The duo’s harmonies have never sounded lovelier than on “Sometimes,” which, after the obvious Low, Windy & Carl and Mojave 3 comparisons have subsided, actually had me thinking of Simon & Garfunkle covering an old Galaxie 500 tune!The extended dream sequence closing the title track, once again featuring Rainey’s sexy sax is the perfect music to let your mind travel the astral plane and reflect back on the marvellous collection that you have just experienced. A milestone recording in the impressive careers of Damon & Naomi, this should be the release that elevates them to superstar status and rewards them with the accompanying honours and sales that it and they so richly deserve. It’s easily their best release to date.– Jeff Penczak

The Big Takeover
Five years was a typically long time to wait for another rare Damon & Naomi LP, but with Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara once again playing a key collaborative role on electric guitar, the couple surpass 2000′s career-best With Ghost with their most fully-realized, dreamy, contemplative folk rock vision. Having established their slowcore pedigree as the rhythm section of Galaxie 500 15 years ago, it’s nevertheless surprising how far they’ve come from those rougher/more naive-sounding days: the self-released The Earth is where dreampop and slowcore meet in a calm movie soundtrack. It’s enlivened by Naomi Yang’s much-improved gossamer vocals and Damon Krukowski’s gentle acoustic rhythms; the splendid setting for Kurihara’s splashes of color, shade, and light. (Plus he does a Neil Young/Crazy Horse solo on the unusually strident “A Second Life.”) This is melodious, sonorous, dulcet, and never lazy, and the pair have never sung better. Indeed, their harmonizing has never been more on pitch than on the piano-lightened “Sometimes.” And check out their gauzy, sloooooow cover of George Harrison’s 1968 White Album standout “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which trades Eric Clapton’s doomy leads and Paul McCartney’s dark bass for a spooky hush, as if “weeping” over imminent world demise. Meanwhile, Krukowski’s rendering of Brazilian Tropicalia star Caetano Veloso’s 1971 obscuro title track “Aracá Azul” feels more natural than their past covers of Soft Machine, The Band, and Country Joe & the Fish. Indeed, for a duo that covered “Blue Moon” from Big Star’s wrenching Third, and whose first LP was entitled More Sad Hits (1992), their former gorgeous melancholy has never sounded so contrarily pretty, so rainwater fresh, so brightly sparkling in sun-baked hues. These qualities are thoroughly captured in Yang’s brilliant sleeve photographs-in particular the cover’s striking shot of the bluest sea beyond an old stone wall pocked with heart-shaped carvings. You’ll want to dip your toe in, to that sea, and to this LP. As David Bowie once sang, “Planet earth is blue/And there’s nothing I can do.” – Jack Rabid

Foxy Digitalis
It’s been a pleasure to hear Damon and Naomi evolve over the years from “faux folk,” as one hipster rock journo once described them, to one of the most hypnotic folk pop bands in the world. They’ve always had their detractors, but if The Earth is Blue doesn’t placate those sorts, nothing will. The arrangements, the performances, the songs themselves easily rank among D&N’s most heartfelt and fully realized to date.As with their last studio album, the duo’s austere approach is opened up by sympathetic players, including guitar master, Michio Kurihara of Ghost and The Stars (his solo debut should be available on Pedal Records as you read this). Greg Kelley of the mind-blowing Nmperign and Cold Bleak Heat lends his expressive trumpet to the fold. Usually known for unorthodox “free” playing, Kelley alters his style effortlessly to suit more languid, structured approach. Bhob Rainey (soprano sax) and Dana Kletter (piano) supply more harmonic hues to the palette.We get ten impressionistic ruminations on love, loss, hope and sadness, crystal clear at their core but blurred round the edges. The smooth flow of “Beautiful Close Double” and “Malibran” suggests Robert Wyatt and Tim Buckley’s early 70s arrangements with their narcotic layers of sound flowing like fine wine through pristine harmonies. Every note lingers in the air for a brief eternity before wafting back to earth in a gentle spiral. Naomi has never sounded better than she does throughout, and the backing harmonies hit just the right note of 60s folky reverence and subtle restraint.Kurihara’s guitar playing often takes a rhythm seat to Damon’s lead, but it’s some of the most rich and rewarding rhythm playing you’ll ever here. (Note from D&N website: all electric guitar on the album, whether rhythm or lead, ebow or faux mandolin, were played by Kurihara. All acoustic guitar tracks were played by Damon.) By the time he steps into the lead spot for the cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (a soulful nod to the late George Harrison), the mind is suitably wiped clean, pain and fear rendered moot amid the blooming flowers of his ornate slow blues soloing. The one-two punch of a cover of Caetano Veloso’s “Araçá Azul,” which seamlessly dissolves into the closing title track, makes for a stunning conclusion as Kurihara’s e-bowed guitar lends a soaring quality to the finale. Fans of modern psych folk probably already have this. The rest of you have been advised. – Lee Jackson

Junkmedia (****)
I guess Damon, Naomi & Michio is a bit of a mouthful, but make no mistake about it: Damon & Naomi’s latest release, The Earth Is Blue, is a full-on collaboration with Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara. His effortlessly beautiful electric leads are all over the songs, wrapping the album in a hazy psychedelic mist. The collaboration makes for one of Damon & Naomi’s best records.Where previous releases have been occasionally bogged down in somnambulistic reverie, the majority of The Earth Is Blue feels light as air. And thanks to Damon’s thundering drums and Kurihara’s fuzzy guitar, a handful of songs here come perilously close to “rocking” – pretty alien territory for D&N. The team of Damon, Naomi & Michio is far too good to break up. Maybe they should consider that name change. –Tyler Wilcox

ICE Magazine
Some artists take five years to release an LP because they’re lazy. Not so ex-Galaxie 500 and -Magic Hour folks Damon & Naomi, whose fourth LP, The Earth Is Blue, is their first since 2000′s Damon & Naomi with Ghost. They probably barely noticed the time, given that in the interim they 1) toured the globe with Japan’s Ghost (guitarist Michio Kurihara collaborates on The Earth); 2) released a live CD/DVD, Song to the Siren, on Sub Pop; 3) curated a Galaxie 500 rarities CD and 4) double DVD of videos and gig footage; 5) reissued rare fiction through their publishing company, Exact Change; 6) launched a new label, 20/20/20; 7) upgraded their home studio; 8 self-produced The Earth; and 9) published a book of Damon Krukowski’s poetry, The Memory Theater Burned. As if that weren’t enough, 10) Naomi Yang photographed and designed their output’s packaging. Somewhere in there they brushed their teeth, possibly ate some meals, and maybe went outside on occasion.  ”Although we wrote the new songs as a duo, we developed the arrangements with Kurihara to try and take advantage of what happened to songs as we toured,” remembers Yang.  ”A lot of the songs were informed by tour experiences,” adds Krukowski. “Brazil and Japan were particularly inspiring; I came back from Brazil with a nylon string guitar and a bag of pirated CDs. The lyrics to ‘The Earth Is Blue’ have to do with our Brazilian trip and a family story-it touches on the Holocaust and its survivors. My father’s family are refugees from the war, Polish Jews, and one ended up emigrating to Brazil.”  No wonder, then, that they cover Brazilian pop trailblazer Caetano Veloso’s 1971 experimental LP’s title track, “Araca Azul” (along with George Harrison’s White Album Beatles classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” including the lost verse from the 1968 demo on Anthology III). Krukowski laughs, “We developed ‘Araca’ to bring to Brazil, because Brazilian music has had such an influence on us. But when we mentioned Caetano to people there, they mostly reacted with horror! It seemed Caetano is everyone’s mother’s favorite singer-decidedly not cool. We were interviewed on a radio show that had a running gag making fun of him!”  That the duo has been recording since Galaxie’s 1987 debut Today and also may be some people’s mom’s favorites doesn’t mean that they cling to the known. “We tend to tear up old working habits,” Krukowski says. “Naomi switched from an acoustic harmonium to electric piano and organ, which had a huge effect, and I incorporated more fingerpicking into my meager technical repertoire, which influenced the songwriting and chord voicings. We changed the keys we’d been relying on. And we developed structures with more modulations and fewer drones.”  ”We’ve learned how to record ourselves,” Yang adds. “It’s funny how technology is at a point where can do everything yourself, which is wonderful. But you have to master so many skills at one time!”  And that’s just to enable them to express their creativity. “We think we’re a bit insane to live this way,” Krukowski admits, “but it’s the only way we know how!”

Plan 9 Music
Within the halls of the rock and roll critics’ academy, words like “literate” and “thoughtful” get tossed about a lot. But pulling off the trick of actually making music which lives up to said praise is no mean feat – there are pratfalls at every turn, from clichés to mawkishness, and nobody wants to hear what kind of song Dennis Miller would end up writing. It takes a rare combination of patience, wisdom, and intuition to construct songs that appeal to the brain as well as the heart. Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang met at Yale, and though it produced our current commander-in-chief, the school is actually known for producing some fairly intelligent citizens. (Correction from D&N website: D&N actually met in high school, in New York, and then both attended Harvard. . . .) After their old band (Galaxie 500) dissolved, Damon and Naomi set up shop with a boutique publishing house and a sweetly intimate recording project which would allow them to record elegiac tunes (one of their earlier records was called MORE SAD HITS) without having to aspire to be rock stars or even bedroom savants. THE EARTH IS BLUE is their first record for their newly formed 20/20/20 Records label.Like their contemporaries in love and music-making Yo La Tengo, Damon & Naomi make songs about life as a couple, but not those silly gaga songs which the Lachey-Simpsons of the world can leave behind. Damon & Naomi speak more gently and metaphorically than Yo La Tengo do, but the ideas are essentially the same – growing older together, private jokes, choices made and possibly regretted, the idea that love can last forever. Add guest musician Michio Kurihara from Japanese psych-folkers Ghost on electric guitar to the mix of fuzz-bass, harmonium, hushed drums, and acoustic strum, and there are the makings of a richly hued set of poignant tales, full of vivid imagery and hidden passages, but never with carelessly wasted words. Krukowski and Yang’s voices intermingle perfectly, as demonstrated on the sublime “Sometimes,” but they often choose to go it alone, reaffirming that they are strongly independent parts of a unit. Yang explores the feminine side of George Harrison on a melancholy version of his “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Krukowski ends the album with a combination of Caetano Veloso’s “Araca Azul” (“Blue Guava”) into his own “The Earth Is Blue,” replete with psychedelic sax soloing from Bhob Rainey and sparkling guitar work from Kurihara. All of the songs on this record bear the stamp of musicians who love the art of making music, and doing so without insulting the intelligence of their audience. Love songs will be around forever, but few will speak to the heart so truly, openly, and thoughtfully as Damon & Naomi do. This is quiet music for seriously deafening times. – Dominic J. DeVito

When I listened to Damon and Naomi’s latest album The Earth is Blue, all I could think of was clouds, blurred images and dreamlike sequences usually associated with a Smashing Pumpkin’s video. Damon and Naomi have created a dreamy ambient record full of beautifully arranged instruments and wistful lyrics. Along for the ride this time is Michio Kurihara from Ghost who becomes an unofficial third member. The album is Damon and Naomi’s first effort since parting ways with indie label SubPop a few years ago.The first song on the album “Beautiful Close Double” sets the tone for the record introducing listeners to Naomi Yang’s haunting voice which sounds like Kim Deal of The Pixies, Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star and Frances McKee of the Scottish group The Vaselines all rolled into one.The second track “A Second Life” picks up where “Beautiful Close Double” leaves off only this time a blistering guitar solo is added to bring a little rawness to the dreamlike ambience. The third track “Malibran” is one of the highlights of the record featuring Damon on vocals, Greg Kelley on the trumpet and Bhob Rainey playing the saxophone. The track takes a page from Sting’s songbook circa 1985′s The Dream of the Blue Turtles.The rest of the album is standard fair relying on tranquil compositions highlighted by Kurihara’s electric guitar. The cover of George Harrison’s classic “While My Guitar Gently Sleeps” is not bad but it lacks the punch of the original since the pace was slowed down slightly to fit the tone of the whole album.The Earth is Blue clocks in at just over 50 minutes making it a tad long but it’s music that will strike you when the mood fits. It’s not the kind of CD to be played at a college frat party that’s for sure. A solid follow up to 2000′s Damon and Naomi with Ghost, The Earth is Blue offers glimpses of what direction the band is going in and what their next release may sound like. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take five years for that album to come out. –Trent McMartin

Husband-and-wife duo Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang are a psychedelic power couple. Since first making the scene with Galaxie 500 in the late 80s, they’ve served as ambassadors of international acid folk (collaborating with Japanse gurus Ghost) and have acted as at-home historians (performing with Pearls Before Swine’s Tom Rapp). The Earth is Blue is a pristine reflection of Damon & Naomi’s vision and taste, featuring eight gauze-pop originals alongside covers of songs by George Harrison and Caetano Veloso.

Giant Robot
Damon and Naomi are involved in indie music, photography, writing, and publishing. Now they’re releasing their new album, The Earth is Blue, on their own record label. The duo’s influences — new and old pop music, folk from around the world, Kurihara, Ghost, and other sources of aural pleasure — tie together into a mellow and cool style. From Damon’s guitars to Naomi’s harmonium, the sound is consistent, and their vocals and songwriting have a flavor that you do’t hear very often. I can’t believe Damon sings the Caetano Veloso song, “Araca Azul”. There was a time when the duo’s music was more naive; this album is steeped in music history and technique, and, thankfully, nothing is overdone. — Eric Nakamura

One time, a friend of mine was couch-surfing at my place and he kept bringing a different girl home every night. I knew it was time to put my headphones on as soon as I heard the opening notes of “The Mirror Phase” from Damon & Naomi’s last album. That was his surefire get-em-in-the-sack CD. It never failed. And the thing is, my friend is no Jude Law. So I feel pretty confident in saying that listening to Damon & Naomi gets you laid. I can think of no higher praise. – Dot Milfer

Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang are a DIY supercouple. Their partnership has spawned a two-decade recording career (first in the seminal Galaxie 500, then as Magic Hour, and, of course, as themselves), a record label (20/20/20), and a small press (Exact Change). Oh, and Krukowski is a published poet, while Yang is an accomplished photographer and graphic artist.It should come as no surprise that their newest album and their first in five years, The Earth is Blue, was recorded in their Cambridge, Massachusetts home studio and is released on their own 20/20/20 label. After Galaxie 500 disbanded, member Dean Wareham tackled melodic rock with Luna, while Damon & Naomi continued to explore the shoegazing, ambient pop the band was known for. With Earth, they continue to create gentle songs with dreamy, ethereal layers. Earth is deeper and more textured than previous efforts and features a handful of highly respected guest musicians, including guitarist Michio Kurihara of Japanese psych-folk band Ghost. “House of Glass” uses Kurihara’s fuzzed-out metallic guitar as the perfect counterpoint to Naomi’s gorgeous harmonies. The mood here is so warm and intimate that one absorbs the record rather than listens to it. Their version of Caetano Veloso’s “Araca Azul” features sweeping rhythms and moves like waves lapping the shore. With The Earth is Blue, Damon & Naomi prove they are capable of evolving with each new album — or project — they create. And there’s no doubt that there’s much more to come. – Anna Giuliani

Newhouse Wire (***)
Dream-weaving psychedelia, late-night jazz and traces of shimmering chamber pop float throughout the first new studio album in five years from the former Galaxie 500 duo of Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang.Keeping things unpredictable, they break up Yang’s angelically-sung “A Second Life,” with wild fuzz-fueled guitar blasts courtesy of Michio Kurihara of Ghost, a psychedelic folk band out of Japan. They weave plenty of Greg Kelley’s trumpet and Bhob Rainey’s soprano sax into the disc, adding an exotic effect to cuts such as “Mailbran.” And despite an overall very subdued sound, Damon & Naomi do shake things up sometimes, like during “The Robot Speaks,” which starts in hushed and hazy fashion before building towards a strikingly frenzied end.The pair, who recorded the album at their home studio in Cambridge, also offer a stark, almost baroque traced version of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” – Kevin O’Hare

Slightly Confusing to a Stranger
So, LOW released a new album this year – and there are many a writer / critic / fan who are either praising or sobbing over the “newer sound” (harder slowcore?) they have unveiled. LOW are now on SubPop (where Damon & Naomi once were – for 3 amazing albums!), and there is a point to that little bit of nonsense in a journal… somewhere. Onward…Naomi Yang and Damon Krukowski, better known as the two-thirds of Galaxie 500 (!!) to some – Damon & Naomi to others, have not only settled into the glorious, crawling pace they founded in 1992 (though an EP was the precursor) on the perfectly titled LP More Sad Hits – they now own the bragging rights. Did you know? Damon & Naomi almost called it a day in 1992 post-Galaxie 500. Had this happened, I cannot imagine where my influences would lie musically – and that scares me a little too much to continue the thought. To backtrack for only a moment, 2000′s Damon & Naomi with Ghost is a top ten album of all time – an album of elegance, sadness and some of the finest songs put to tape in the 20th century. Here we are, five years later, and Damon & Naomi have released The Earth is Blue and prepare to set off on a tour to accompany the offering. Prayers to an unseen force have been answered – give thanks.Upon first glance at the tracklisting for The Earth is Blue, one of the ten offerings is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – little did I know D&N had chosen to cover this George Harrison classic (best Beatles song of all time?), and within seconds The Earth is Blue was on track seven before the plastic surrounding the album had reached the floor. A swirling, brass added adaptation of the song, Naomi Yang’s luscious dream-state of a voice gives “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” one of its finest remakes I could ever have imagined. Damon lands himself behind the kit for a distant cymbal and floor tom session, and the mesmerizing result is as solid as your D&N album collection. “A Second Life” revisits a similar tone found on “Judah and the Maccabees” (from 2000′s Ghost) with that saw-like backing electric filling in the few spaces where the band hasn’t already touched and made pure gold. Michio Kurihara (of Ghost) and his electric guitar are all over The Earth is Blue, and they both bring selections such as “A Second Life” (a Jimmy Page reference wouldn’t be far out of place) & “House of Glass” into a fully realized wealth of sacred greatness. Mid-album composition “Sometimes” sounds remotely similar to a gift that could have spawned from the …with Ghost sessions, as the duo share the entirety of the songs harmony over a delicate blend of percussion, bass and piano. Uncommon are complete albums like The Earth is Blue that don’t require more than one listen to lose yourself in them. You’ll hear the horns on opener “Beautiful Close Double” and swear the sky has opened up inviting you in.. . ” let’s make the same mistake again “.Released on the bands very own 20|20|20 imprint, the labels may have (again) changed – but this signature sound that we have all come to adore, admire and rely on for survival is very much intact. When you hear a Damon & Naomi song – liner notes in hand or not – you know who owns it. Thanks. Extra Credit: To early searchers only (numbered in a batch of 100) is / was a Live cd-r of 5 songs, 2 being takes on The Earth is Blue pieces “A Second Life” and “Araçá Azul [Blue Guava] / The Earth is Blue” (in which Damon gives insight to the songs Brazilian composer and Portugese origin). Also here is “Song to the Siren”, the prized Tim Buckley cover and the title of their 2002 Live CD/DVD set. All five tracks recorded live in Tokyo at the beginning of 2004 with Michio (plus Taishi Takizawa on flute) – the clarity and vision are unblemished. – Kaleb

I’m not that familiar with the wonderful world of Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, having only heard a couple of albums by them and ditto by their previous vehicle of the 1980s, Galaxie 500, and one memorable close encounter one dark evening a few years ago. Anyways, this is their first album of new material in five years. There seems to be more electric guitars from Michio Kurihara (from the Japanese band Ghost, who by now act as the third steady member of the American duo?). Also, there might be some more keyboards here & there, the occasional trumpet and sax on the new album. Still the songs are mainly in a sort of singer songwriter tradition with the vocals, acoustic guitar and bass up front. They have included one cover version of the Beatles (George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) and one by prolific Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso (“Araçá Azul”). No matter what instruments are included and what songs they play, it still sounds distinctively Damon & Naomi!At first the album seemed to be the perfect company during this summer. The music was refreshing when it was too hot: ‘rain is falling in a china cup’, and warmed heart and bone when it was too cold: ‘but given light, flowers bloom inside’. Last week when we had the hottest day in Oslo in 50 years, The Earth Is Blue was pretty cool… A closer inspection reveals that the lyrics are not of the summer lightweight kind. Among other matters they are dealing with deapair and reflections, ‘reflections I won’t ever find again’. They are more suitable for darker seasons than bright summer days, and will make the album last. And still, “Beautiful Close Double” should’ve been a summer hit in a just world, with D&N closer to the 4AD sound of the 80s than ever, Cocteau Twins in particular, combined with the stunning vibrant guitar of Michio. “Ueno Station” and the title track are other outstanding songs, both fragile. Despite the former deals with booze and rain in the city, both of them make me dreamy; feels like floating in the air like a sea gull in a light blue summer breeze. You might discern it on the picture of the cover…

With their sublime ethereal charms and penchant for spectral pyschedelia, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang – formerly of Galaxie 500 – are seemingly heaven-sent. Having momentarily shuffled onto Britain’s radar in 2002 with their delightful interpretation of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to The Siren’, The Earth Is Blue (20/20/20) finally finds the duo – and erstwhile guitarist Michio Kurihara – laying down some more substantial roots.The joy of The Earth Is Blue is in its intricate subtleties and bruised sensitivity. Whether tussled up in rich harmonium murmurs or woven into gentle pop harmonies there’s an intoxicating atmosphere nurtured here that’s equal – if not more – to the dramatic soundscapes of early Cocteau Twins. A partnership thriving. – Matt Brown

Comes with a Smile
There’s a problem with most Damon & Naomi albums; they seem to lack something to grasp, almost being too ethereal. As the title implies, this one is more down to earth, or at least the part that covers the majority of the surface. It ripples like the ocean, with a roaring start to Beautiful Close Double before ebbing away into the rest of the album. To say the record flows would be an understatement, even the guitars are liquid, shimmering and waving as they pass by. There are moments of dead calm and sudden squalls of noise, the restlessness surging around on tracks like House Of Glass is juxtaposed with the soothing languidness of Sometimes. The take on While My Guitar Gently Weeps has an aqueous drift that send the record towards its destination, meandering slightly before a rapid surge through The Robot Speaks and onto the title track to wind it all up with oozing E-Bows, bubbling trumpets and sax that float away out of the sea and into the sky. This feels like a more complete record and one that leaves a mark and you can’t say fairer than that. — Laurence Arnold

Gigwise (***)
The Earth Is Blue sounds like this could have been an album of novelty kiddie-pop, but thankfully it isn’t. Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang have in fact been releasing folk records for over a decade, and The Earth Is Blue is their fifth full album. It was also produced by the duo, and has been released on their own label.Sweeping melodies and heavenly vocals dominate this record, with Yang being particularly easy on the ear. ‘Beautiful Close Double’ strums away casually; sweeping you along like a zephyr of warm air. It builds to a crescendo, by which time you’re wishing to be relaxing on a summer’s day. ‘A Second Life’ is sad lyrically and musically, but still has a charm, while ‘Malibran’ demonstrates that Krukowski is equally effective on lead vocals. ‘Sometimes’ is driven along by a prominent bass and finds the two singers harmonising to great effect on a pleasant track.Covering the work of The Beatles is never easy, but they attempt George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. It’s a highly respectful version, carried by Yang’s gorgeous voice, and should cause no offence. ‘The Robot Speaks’ begins calmly and shows much restraint before an epic instrumental burst, whilst the finale title track The Earth Is Blue finds Krukowski effortlessly carrying the tune before an extended outro. It’s a suitable ending to a pleasant album that makes you long for warmer climates. — Alex Lai

The Stranger (***)
On The Earth Is Blue, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang (rhythm section for the influential Galaxie 500 and the overlooked Magic Hour) deliver more sad (non) hits, to paraphrase the title of their 1992 debut album. The married couple’s last full-length, Damon & Naomi with Ghost (2000, Sub Pop), was a dozy affair, but not without its languid charms. If you like spare yet lush ballads with Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazlewood-on-’ludes vocalizing, the disc will curl your toes nicely, though hard-rockin’ types may find it to be the aural equivalent of warm milk. Damon & Naomi’s fifth studio album features Ghost’s sensitive electric guitarist Michio Kurihara and guests Greg Kelley (trumpet) and Bhob Rainey (soprano sax), but they don’t deviate from the long-standing D&N template. This is exemplified by one of the duo’s best songs, “Beautiful Close Double,” featuring dewy acoustic-guitar jangle, folky amble, Naomi’s cooler-than-ice, vulva-soft croon, and Damon’s pathos-heavy wails. Poignancy is D&N’s métier–they’re soaking in it. While Earth could’ve appeared at any point in D&N’s career, its water-treading is undeniably touching and romantic. — Dave Segal

Artvoice (Buffalo)
Following the acrimonious breakup of Galaxie 500, drummer Damon Krukowski and bassist Naomi Yang found far more enduring success as a duo. In addition to six albums of atmospheric slowcore under the Damon & Naomi moniker, the pair have also founded the counterculture publishing house Exact Change and launched their own music label, which was christened by the release of The Earth Is Blue, their first Blue new material in five years. Damon & Naomi are joined by guitarist Michio Kurihara of the criminally-underrated Japanese psych-folk outfit Ghost, who lends a worldly perspective to the couple’s trademark bittersweet ambience. Damon & Naomi have often divided vocal duties equally, but The Earth Is Blue mostly finds Yang as its cen- terpiece, as on the shivery, elegiac rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Krukowski does step into the spotlight for the evocative “Malibran” and “Araçá Azul,” a Brazilian song whose seamless transition into the album-closing title track is one of the many little touches which are only revealed upon repeated listens. The Earth Is Blue is filled with such small rewards: Greg Kelley ‘s understated trumpet flourishes on “Beautiful Close Double” or the slow build of Kurihara’s guitar on album highlight “House of Glass.” Much like the seascape depicted in the album’s artwork (impeccably styled by Yang, also an accomplished graphic designer), The Earth Is Blue could easily be admired just for its very pretty surface. But for the attentive listener, its hidden depths are vast and rewarding.– Jennifer Behrens

High Bias
I’ve always dismissed Damon & Naomi, thanks to their past association with indie rock icon Galaxie 500, a band I can’t stand. That’s turned out to be a mistake, as the music emanating from the loving duo is light years beyond anything their former band ever emitted. The wonderful Damon & Naomi with Ghost, a collaboration with the great Japanese acid folk ensemble Ghost, turned me on to them and their latest record The Earth is Blue has made me a fan for life. It’s not that guitarist/drummer Damon Krukowski and bassist/keyboardist Naomi Yang (joined here by Ghost guitarist Michio Kurahara) are doing anything radical here-the sound is basically shimmering psychedelic folk rock. But the pair does what it does so damned well it’s impossible to resist. “Sometimes” is a sparkling pop tune driven as much by Krukowski and Yang’s intimate harmonies as by the propulsive melody. A cover of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” breathes fragile, butterfly-winged life to an old warhorse. Glistening tunes like “Malibran,” “Araçá Azul” and “Beautiful Close Double” are simply gorgeous, like a lush field of tall grass swaying in the summer breeze. The tracks take their time getting where they’re going, but never feel overextended or padded-the music simply feels no need to rush through its engaging melodies. The arrangements follow suit; rather than clutter the songs with multiple overdubs, Damon & Naomi keep the tracks stripped down to acoustic strumming, gentle but firm drumming, root-hugging bass and warm keyboards. Kurahara’s electric guitar adds spice, while a pair of horn players grace a few songs, adding some different colors without upsetting the pallet. The duo crystallizes its approach with “House of Glass” and the title track, lengthy, unforced epics that build in intensity without ever approaching bombast. The Earth is Blue is one of the most beautiful records I’ve heard in quite a while, and a gentle lesson in the inherent foolishness of jumping to conclusions – Michael Toland

It’s difficult to believe that Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang have been working together, post- Galaxie 500, for well over a decade. The music has evolved and advanced in every one of those years, and The Earth Is Blue sees the group continue on that path. The Earth Is Blue combines the duo’s delicate vocal melodies and orchestral ambitions with solid arrangements and possibly their best songs to date. Folk-psyche is rarely a jolly subgenre, and with Naomi’s fragile vocal and songs filled with shimmering instruments, the new release won’t change the minds of those who find D&N a touch too delicate. Fans, however, will note that these songs – more than any they have penned to date – fully warrant the majestic echo of horns and or the fuzzed-out grandiosity of guest guitarist Michio Kurihara (Ghost). D&N are nothing if not impeccable with arrangements, too, and everything seems to belong exactly where it is. When rearranging While My Guitar Gently Weeps, they chose to eliminate the most recognizable refrain – you know, the actual guitar that’s weeping – and yet on this album, it couldn’t make more sense – James Hayashi-Tennant

This is Nottingham (****)
If there ever was a word too frequently thrown about when describing numerous influential groups then seminal is it. Unfortunately it is the one word that accurately implies the underrated talent that was Galaxie 500 (check out ‘On Fire’ for further proof). After the re-release of ‘Today’ in 1991 the group split – Dean Wareham went on to form Luna while Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang continued under the moniker Damon & Naomi. Now in 2005 the duo have released The Earth Is Blue on their new 20/20/20 imprint, three years since their last release and five since their last original recorded work – a collaboration with stunning psych-folk ensemble Ghost. On The Earth Is Blue Ghost’s guitarist, Michio Kurihara, joins the group, adding his impeccable electric guitar to the luxuriously textured sound of the pair – most notably on ‘A Second Life’ and ‘House of Glass’. Elsewhere, trumpeter Greg Kelley and saxophonist Bhob Rainey fill out songs, such as opener ‘Beautiful Close Double’, helping them fulfil their potential. Lyrically the songs are as dense and poetic as ever, without being too overblown and obtuse. The slow, effortless beauty of Damon & Naomi is best shown on the album highlight, title song ‘The Earth Is Blue’: perfectly crafted and completely transfixing. Fans of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi will not be disappointed, while fans of the resurgent indie-folk scene will do well to discover the twosome. – Mike Henning

The Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Like their previous collaborations, Damon & Naomi’s The Earth is Blue drifts by in a pretty, atmospheric haze of acoustic guitars and ethereal vocals. Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, formerly the rhythm section for Galaxie 500, have a penchant for gorgeous melodies and wistful lyrics that can lull the unwary listener into a pleasant trance.Fortify yourself with a little Red Bull, however, because many of these songs deserve to be paid attention to. Lush textures are created with the addition of horns on several tracks and some surprisingly urgent electric guitar solos by Michio Kurihara on songs like “House of Glass.”One of the album’s highlights is an understated cover of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that perfectly wraps around Yang’s lovely voice. – Mike Henning

Miami New Times
If multitasking is the byword of the new millennium, Damon and Naomi have mastered it. Since dissolving their ethereal ensemble Galaxie 500, the couple has released five albums; jump-started both a record label and a publishing company; pursued side projects in writing, poetry, photography, and graphic design; and overseen their former outfit’s archives. Their lives may be cluttered, but their music remains unscathed. As its blissful title suggests, The Earth Is Blue is a soothingly serene sojourn on which celestial harmonies and delicate, spacious arrangements waft through the lovely, lilting “Sometimes,” “Araçá Azul,” and “Beautiful Close Double.” Despite an overly languid cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” this is indeed a good Earth overall. – Lee Zimmerman

Except for several horn flourishes and some soaring guitar from unofficial member Michio Kurihara, the music on Damon and Naomi’s latest album in five years is a further extension of their psychedelic folk sound. Since the break up of Galaxie 500 nearly fifteen years ago in which they were the rhythm section, the duo of Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang have chart ed a very uncommercial path with their atmospheirc backdrops, lush vocals, and stream of conciousness lyrics. The performances on The Earth Is Blue are quite moving as they are sublime, from the wistful “Beautiful Close Double” and the passionate “House of Glass” through the haunting Ueno Station and “The Robot Speaks.” Covers of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Catetano Veloso’s “Araca Azul” pay dutiful respect to the originals rendered in their unique style. The addition of Kurihara’s magnificent guitar further adds to the songs sense of beauty and emotional turbulence-between melancholy and optimism. The Earth is Blue is an intimate, sumptuous statement, not suprising from two musicians who forged the ‘quiet is the new loud’ sound. — David Chiu

Emerging from a three-year absence, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang charge back into the fray with this haunting and confident collection. Their last album included Japan’s Ghost, and synergy was in the air, as Ghost’s Michio Kurihara returns as a full-fledged member of the group, bringing added instrumentation and heft. “Beautiful Close Double” captures much of the what works spectacularly well on this album: the beautifully deft harmonies of the titular pair and the subtle and natural bursts of instrumentation. Not afraid to let the feedback fly, “A Second Life” and “House of Glass” feature muscular, hazy psych-rock influences. Despite these bursts of energy, the rest of the album floats along at a slower pace, giving full space and time to Naomi’s haunting voice mixed with either a lazy acoustic backing or electric guitar accents. If there’s a slight misstep, it would be the rather faithful rendering of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which does its job in its elegiac way, but still sticks out in his otherwise supremely varied and inventive album. Welcome back, and please stay a little while. – Chris Whibbs

Eye Weekly (Toronto)****
After 13 years of going it on their own as a pair of peaceful, space-pop romantics, Damon & Naomi’s stint as the hypnotic rhythm section of pre-shoegazer legends Galaxie 500 must feel like a distant dream — especially after inviting the surreal talents of modern Japanese prog legends Ghost to heavily haunt their last couple of albums. The Earth Is Blue brings Damon & Naomi back home again (with Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara lending hand-jive) and positively flames with mellow emotion like a wounded heart that’s just been match-struck back into love. From the strutting, slow-hand riff of momentous opener “Beautiful Close Double” to the soothing layers of enlightened squall that send out the epic closing title track, this album quivers with heartfelt and tender evocation. – Kevin Hainey

reviewSusanne Searth is blue