Tales of Us
Sep 06, 2013 Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMT
Goldfrapp's sixth full-length can be boiled down to a simple equation: guitar, strings, and frontwoman Alison Goldfrapp's ethereal soprano. It can also be reduced to a catchy band pairing: Vashti Bunyan recast by David Lynch. Or heck, how about a tagline: This fall, Goldfrapp explores...the Tales of Us. (Say it in your best announcer's voice.) But while Goldfrapp may have made a simple album, wrought from the melancholy DNA of Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree, they have not made a simplistic album. Even when falling on their faces (see 2010's uninspiring Head First, one of their few career missteps) Goldfrapp and multi-instrumentalist/producer Will Gregory have always operated with an ambitious grace.
Each track on Tales of Us is named after a character. These are stories of people living on the fringes—murderers and lovers and soldiers among them—all with some form of broken heart. The band paints their nine modern fairytales in a detailed grayscale—compositions dappled with string flourishes and Goldfrapp's angelic high notes. The synths of their previous efforts are nowhere to be seen, save for "Thea." An understated electronic piece, this would be the kind of song that on any other album Goldfrapp would have shoved kicking and screaming towards the dance floor. Here, it's given room to breathe, the titular character left standing in the rain instead of the neon glare. "Drew" marinates in the flavor of Goldfrapp's 1970s singer/songwriter heroes, a slow orchestral build accompanied by Goldfrapp's "la la la" that together build a silken claustrophobia. They're fragile mists of songs, often hanging together as much by theme and mood as structure. It's a haunting song cycle, one that might not necessarily appeal to their fan base as a whole. But give it another listen; for all its subtlety, this is a role that Goldfrapp was born to play. (www.goldfrapp.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10