Goldfrapp | Silver Eye (Mute) | Rated: 8
It feels like British synthpop duo Goldfrapp have been around for ages. And they have – their first album was released in 2000, and the band have explored new sounds and styles throughout their career. Over the past seventeen years, they’ve come a long way from their cinematic debut, to land upon something which feels very comfortable, very Goldfrapp, yet still feel like it has the same sense of artistic adventure as the band that released Felt Mountain. This album feels like it’s their own sound, but not that they’ve retreated to a easy place – it has plenty for newer listeners, but it also has a few surprises for returning fans.
Alison Goldfrapp’s breathy vocals are where they deserve to be, high in the mix, not hidden by Will Gregory’s multi-layered production. The duo have worked with a number of collaborators on the record. For example British producer The Haxan Cloak worked on “Ocean”, the first track to be released from the album, and one of the best on the record. It’s a dark, moody track which swiftly moves into an epic, synth driven industrial beast.
Lyrically, the record at times takes on some difficult themes – for example, “Become The One” was inspired by issues facing transgender children. At times, though, it is pure lust, as with “Anymore”, Goldfrapp singing:
“Your scent like storms is wild divine
I want your love all of the time
I can’t wait I can’t wait anymore”
Ultimately the album is at its best when up-tempo, as on the standout track “Systemagic”, with an epic bassline. It feels like the best of Goldfrapp, in a song. It’s their best album since Supernature.
Favourite track: “Systemagic”
British Sea Power | Let Dancers Inherit The Party (Golden Chariot) | Rated 7
The veteran British band’s sixth album takes aim at Donald Trump and Brexiteers, and generally has a melancholy attitude to the world. The band’s guitarist says that the album was “made to a background of politicians perfecting the art of unabashed lying, of social-media echo chambers, of click-bait”. You can’t help but wonder whether on “Keep on Trying (Sechs Freunde)”, which on first listen I’d assumed was them banging on about a friend with benefits, is actually a europhile anthem, repeating “Can’t we stay, can’t we stay”, or whether that’s a misinterpretation. At times the album’s lyrics are impenetrable – not that this takes away from the record.
Despite that, Let Dancers Inherit The Party includes some beautiful moments. The start of “Praise for Whatever” is dense, with a lovely guitar. The opening track, “Intro” and final track, “Alone Piano”, share the same slow piano. “Want to be free”, a slow burner towards the end of the record is restrained, but powerful.
Favourite track: “International Space Station”
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Craig Brown Band | The Lucky Ones Forget (Third Man Records) | Rated: 7.5
Jack White’s mission to create a musical menagerie covering all of American music continues apace. Craig Brown is the second country signing to his Third Man Records label, after Margot Price. White clearly believes in his man, as he had him perform at his Detroit record pressing plant opening. As an aside, the opening of the plant surely cements the former White Stripe’s position as the Willy Wonka of contemporary music.
Brown, himself a Detroit resident, has produced a country-rock album which is fun, engaging and doesn’t take itself too seriously – just look at the album cover. There are more contemplative moments on the album though, for example on “Overthinking”:
“I’m already losing
Aging gets confusing
When Steph Curry is younger than me”
It’s a common thing amongst sports fans to finally find yourself looking at the major players in your favourite sport and realising that they’re younger than you. Neymar is 25, most of the Spurs team was born in the 90s. For a 32-year-old, looking at one of the world’s best basketball players, who is also 29, can be a dispiriting thought, which forces some sort of reflection on your achievements in your own life. It’s moments like this on the album that show, despite initial fears, that this isn’t some country pastiche by a musician who has, thus far, been known for rock music and synth-punk.
Favourite track: “Planet Song”
New Tracks of The Week
Amber Coffman: “No Coffee” – It’s almost obligatory to refer to Amber Coffman as a former member of Dirty Projectors. However, her first two solo tracks, from upcoming album “City of No Reply”, are much more laid back, and simpler music (so far) than what she was involved in as part of the band. Sounding a little like Tennis, this song has a vintage feel to it, revelling in a glorious backing guitar.
Dan Auerbach: “Shine on Me” – Black Keys frontman Auerbach’s first release from his upcoming album “Waiting on a Song”. It’s a sugary, pop-rock track, far from the bluesy rock of his main band. The video is mad, the song is infectious.
Calvin Harris (feat. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams and Ariana Grande)” “Heatstroke” – After releasing a slower, but catchy track with Frank Ocean a few weeks ago, Harris has made a (very early) play for the song of the summer. Adding Pharrell Williams and Ariana Grande means it’ll get plenty of attention. Harris appears to be building a musical squad of which his ex (Taylor Swift) would be proud.
Spoek Mathambo (feat. Damao, Suga Flow & Tamar): “Black Rose” – Mind bending influences and South African sounds. An album is to come out in April from the multi-talented Mathambo, who is also making music is a filmmaker. The track opens with a poem by Raven Taylor.
And here’s the full Picks of the Week Playlist from Reaction
Live this week
Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales | The Barbican, City of London | Saturday 25th March 2017 | ★★★★★
Chilly Gonzales and Jarvis Cocker appeared in a three night run, performing recent release, Room 29, at the Barbican. The album, a series of songs, spoken-word tracks and archive audio, could be po-faced. Ultimately, it’s an album about a hotel in LA, inspired by a stay in a specific room. Jarvis’ career alone has earned him the right to deliver something quite indulgent. It wasn’t a night for Pulp-hits or solo tracks – this was a night of high-concept, brilliantly delivered.
The determining factor in this not being a pompous showpiece is the two central composers of the record. During the show, Cocker and Gonzales clearly have a great time, enjoying jokes throughout and even bringing an audience member on stage. Other elements help to make the event an event (which definitely isn’t a musical, according to Cocker), such as each audience member finding a key to Room 29 on their seat.
Gonzales’ playing was beautiful throughout. It’s a stretch to say that the record wouldn’t work as a concept without his playing, but seeing it live, it makes you realise that Gonzales’ presence in playing the tracks is both necessary live and vital is on the record.
Cocker, as always, is ever the showman. Magnetic in presence, owing to the chosen venue he sounded wonderful in every spoken word, from the opening track “Room 29”, to the superb cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Paper Thin Hotel”. Most beautiful, however, is “Clara”, the second track from the album, written about Mark Twain’s daughter. The swelling strings, live, along with Gonzales’ piano playing and Cocker, repeating her name over a crescendo, is magical.
Francois and the Atlas Mountains | M.O.T.H. Club, Hackney | Monday 27th March | ★★★★☆
French pop, influenced by afrobeat. Playing in a former services club in Hackney. Writing it down, it seems ludicrous, but this was pure fun. Given the venue, the sound was one of the elements that you’d be forgiven for expecting to be poor, but fears were quickly dispelled. The afrobeat, desert-rock opening of “Grand Dereglement” sounded perfect, François Marry’s voice clear. The drummer as well, was excellent. A great drummer always lifts a performance.
From that point, it was hard not to have a smile on your face as a band, with additional helpers from the opening act at various points, delighted the Hackney crowd. The highlight of the night was “100 000 000”, which on record is lovely enough, but live it, like much of the band’s set, was better than on record (not that it was bad to begin with).