Monday, May 12, 2008

Goldfrapp -- Seventh Tree (2008)

Goldfrapp -- Seventh Tree (Mute)

I only jumped onto the Goldfrapp train with their last album, so I can’t make any knowledgeable comparisons to much of the band’s previous work. I can say that this new album is a bit more “organic” than the last one, as this is more of a slow, round about midnight effort.

I find Goldfrapp to be akin to Saint Etienne. Both groups specialize in sophisticated slices of dance inflected pop, and have the songwriting smarts to not be slaves to the BPM. It helps that Alison Goldfrapp has an angelic voice that at times is reminiscent of Kate Bush. Goldfrapp and Will Gregory compose creamy melodies for her voice to float upon, and the arrangements are so well thought out, with each instrument, whether the track is spare or jam packed, perfectly in place.

The album begins with the lush “Clowns”, Goldfrapp trilling over an acoustic guitar and pillows of string accompaniment. The string arrangement is captivating, and the multi-tracked harmonies of what sounds like a choir of Goldfrapps is breathtaking. All in support of lyrics like “roasting, roasting, roast indeed, mahagony/titties that live on and on and on.”

The album mixes the pensive, pretty tracks with insinuating mid-tempo songs like “Cologne Cerrone Houdini” (in the running for song title of the year). This track sports a slowed down R & B groove, with warm bass playing and string vamps. The groove flows into a strong melody leading to a chorus with Goldfrapp singing at the top of her range. This song is very comparable to recent Saint Etienne.

If there is a sure fire hit on this album, and trust me, there should be a few, it’s the jocular “Happiness”. Goldfrapp’s breathy vocals manage to be warm and cool at the same time, bouncing over a fingersnapping rhythm. In the midst of this giddy tuneage, the lyrics reveal the darker subject of the song -- the allure of a cult: “We can see your troubled soul/give us all your money/we’ll make it better.” Frothy subversion of the highest order.

This duality is also found on “A & E”, where Goldfrapp, where the soulful synth-pop works in service of a song about a woman who unsuccessfully committed suicide. The rhythm track sounds like Erasure slowed down, while Goldfrapp sings things like “think I want you still/but it may be pills at work.” The Kate Bush meter hits its highest level on the dramatic middle eight. This is a very poignant number.

This is an album with very appealing surfaces, but rewards those who dig a little deeper. Goldfrapp has cemented its status as a British pop treasure.

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