Picnic is from Estonia, a country that doesn’t exactly spring to mind as a hotbed of ’90s dream pop revivalism. However, Winter Honey, the group’s debut LP, is a convincing enough statement to embed them on the musical map. There are a number of obvious points of reference on this disc — check the perfect homage to the Sundays on opener “Too Fast” and the sublime evocations of Lush in “Two Worlds” — but the band’s material is far from a reiteration of these forebears of melancholy pop. Tracks like “Love Song for an Imaginary Lover” and “Oko” have a Spartan, echoing darkness to them that recall Low’s slowcore crawl. On the other end of the spectrum, “Shareware” and “Carrot Street” rustle up the messy, playful lo-fi cacophony of the C86 movement. More modern electronic trappings also show up in the down-tempo beats of “Deltaplane” and the lilting synth swells on “Who Do You Love?”
While the instrumentation shines throughout these shifts in style, Marju Taukar’s vocals are the true highlight. She captures the breathless melancholy of these genres exquisitely.
It’s likely this release will slip below a lot of people’s radars, but it’s definitely one to track down if the halcyon days of 4ad and Rough Trade Records still hold a place in your heart.