Hear Me Out
Published Thursday, 25-Mar-2010 in issue 1161
Remember how desperately you wanted to get your Supernature-style groove on during the release of the British duo’s 2008 dance-ditching release, Seventh Tree? Now you can. Whimsical introspectiveness takes a zippy ride on the ABBA rocket, soaring through a cosmic heaven that’s about as blissful and levitating as a sugar rush. Upon their livelier descent into this euphoric fantasy – driven by spacey synths, walloping drums and Alison Goldfrapp’s dreamy murmurs – is an opening bunch of songs that’s to ears what cotton candy is to mouths. Launching with the futuristic “Rocket,” adorned in air-lift effects and the irresistible “ooh ooh ooh” chorus, their direction switcheroo – swathed in Saturday Night Fever disco, especially with the feel-good buoyancy of “Alive” – is still moving, but more literally this go ’round. There’s the calming nature of “Daydream” and the effervescent, roller-skating-ready “Believer” – sounding as gay and fun and carefree as Goldfrapp’s ever been. Mellowing in the latter half of the breezy nine-song set, there’s still the in-a-daze effect that cohesively links the outing as if it’s transitioning from nighttime dance party to morning-after lull on “Voicething.” Big drums become a subtle synth drone while Alison’s voice chirps and channels Enya. Sure beats an alarm clock.
Die Stadt Muzikanten
Mark Hamilton, the out frontman of the Canada-born Woodpigeon, sounds exactly like you’d expect him to if you took a passing glance at his pic. It’s the beard, the cold-gear clothes – and the solemn look on nearly every photo he’s in. And, like the Ray LaMontagnes of the world, that’s just what his band delivers on its third full-length (and, at over an hour, it’s about as full as can be, sometimes cumbersomely so): lo-fi and orchestral folk-rock tunes for the bummed-out and winter-weather worn. Themes are derived from a recent trip to Europe and his grandparents’ immigration to Canada – and all of them are crafted with the utmost circumspection, embellishing on theatrical leanings and, on “Empty-Hall Sing-Along,” scoring a rollicking melody that does exactly what its title suggests. Also worth fawning over is Hamilton’s fragile voice: Dreamy and surreal, he’s like an angel whispering into your ears as he alternates seamlessly from sigh-inducing soother to barroom toe-tapper. Losing yourself in the intimate chill of Woodpigeon’s sound – especially on “...And as the Ship Went Down, You’d Never Looked Finer,” like a waterfall tumbling into a pool of instruments – is about as easy as finding your way out.
Where Are You, Bambi Woods?
Yep, Bambi Woods the porn star, one of many character studies on the Dutch pop-rock trio’s promising major-label debut. The wrenching “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, told from Jackie’s perspective, and Matthew Shepard is remembered on the heartfelt-but-overreaching “Poster Child,” crying strings and all. Throughout, gay lead singer Marinus de Goederen sings likes he’s Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz. And that’s a good thing.
If only his debut sounded as good as his body looks. But, alas, not even opening for Lady Gaga showered any originality on his first LP – rudimentary R&B beats that have an instant potency and all the substance of the Pratts. “Whatcha Say” made noise on the charts last year with its thundering Imogen Heap-sampled sound, and many of these maintain that hooky mojo: the peppy pop of “Love Hangover” and “In My Head.” He’ll find his way to yours, but not for long.
She & Him
All the cuteness in the world couldn’t keep up with this too-adorable-for-words twosome who sing doo-wop ditties about break-ups and car rides. The indie-folkies’ sophomore outing finds M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel – that heartbreaker from (500) Days of Summer – charming with retro goodies like “In the Sun.” On “Thieves,” Deschanel’s choked-up singing is like present-day Patsy Cline. That alone makes up for her crushing Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s poor heart.