Luna Li’s debut album ‘Duality’ breaks the barrier between fantasy and reality
Sometimes, one of my favorite things to do when listening to a song I like is to close my eyes, take a breath, and to put the world on pause as I’m being teleported to an otherworldly space. To be immersed like that, to feel like you’re in a world of fantasy, is what powerful music is meant to do. It’s exactly what Luna Li’s Duality does to me, and with every listen through, I feel swept away, again and again, to her curated world of magic, fairies, moonbeams, and adventure.
Luna Li, the moniker of Toronto-based, Korean-Canadian artist Hannah Bussiere Kim, has been the rising star to look out for for quite a while now. And now, after multiple shoutouts on NPR, NME, and several notable SOTY lists—as well as opening for Japanese Breakfast for their latest North American tour, and releasing the widely popular jams EP—an official album release is just what her ever-growing fanbase has been clamoring for. And to put it bluntly, Duality delivers.
Though half of the album consists of already-released singles, the hypnotic nature of Bussiere Kim’s arrangements keeps the excitement level high throughout, with a variety of psychedelic rock and indie pop styles that even feel like they transcend genres at some points. Bussiere Kim’s lush, loop-forward production also combines layers of harp, violins, electric guitar, piano, and synths, creating an orchestra so vast that it barely feels like the work of a single instrumentalist anymore.
What also awed me throughout the album is how so much of her production is both explosive and meditative, often in the same track. Like taking a deep breath, or letting a wave wash over you, these moments imbue a sense of masterfully-arranged grandiosity that can only be matched with a calm serenity that leaves you refreshed, healed, empowered, and rejuvenated.
The setlist starts with the familiar “Cherry Pit,” though this time the special rendition from the respective music video is used, letting us erupt into the album with a grappling, forward-looking force. Luna Li then follows it up with a series of her fan-favorite tracks, including “Afterglow,” “Trying,” and “Alone But Not Lonely,” as well as the new kickback beat, “Boring Again (ft. Jay Som).” It’s also worth noting that all of the features on these tracks, including Jay Som, Dreamer Isioma, and beabadoobee, are fellow musical artists of color, who lend another layer of magic and diversity within the sphere of Luna Li. As stated in a press release, “the universe of Luna Li is hyperlush and inclusive by design,” with Bussiere Kim adding, “I want this album to be something you can dance around in your room too, and like a safe space of belonging for those who don’t feel like they fit anywhere.”
The second half of the album is almost exclusively new releases, save for the cowboy-like confessional “Star Stuff,” which was originally released as a single back in 2017. Some of the standouts here include the vocal-chopped “What You’re Thinking,” the majestically groovy “Magic,” the slow, reflective vignette of “Misery Moon,” and the paced, prismatic tones of “Space.” There’s a significantly more driven, yet meditative, tone in these tracks, but with dynamic bridges and chord changes that nonetheless catch the ear of the listener.
The record signs off with perhaps the most powerful and majestic meditation Luna Li has to offer: the pristine instrumental track “Lonely/Lovely,” which has been teased before during shows with a live-loop rendition. It’s an incredibly fitting closure to the adventure that Luna Li has taken us on during Duality’s 42 minute runtime, and it’s the perfect accompaniment for the post-fantasy comedown, when you get to open your eyes and drift back into reality after being teleported to the fantastical world of the artist.
Simply put, Luna Li’s Duality is an indie project that’s well worth the wait. It’s been years in the making, with tours, performances, insta-jams, and more to not only build up the fanbase, but also to let all those moonbeams and dewdrops simmer and saturate. It’s unlike anything you’ve listened to before; it’s a slice of our dreams, it’s a colorful world of adventure, it’s a safe space of wonder, fantasy, and faeries.
But most of all, it’s a gift that can only be delivered from the ambassador of magic herself, Luna Li.
Duality is out everywhere now.
Header photo by Skylar Steinberg.
Jacob Ugalde is a writer, musician, and pasta enthusiast based in Los Angeles, California. A jack-of-all-trades kind of type, Jacob works in many different fields, from computer programming, to visual design, to film production, to music making, to whatever else he can get his hands on. His favorite musicians are Phoebe Bridgers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Vulfpeck, Luna Li, and Louie Zong, and his favorite video game is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. He thanks you for reading this all the way to the end!