23 March 2010

Goldfrapp: "Head First"

Okay, I admit it: today was a day I was looking forward to for quite sometime! Goldfrapp released their fifth studio album, “Head First” (23 March 2010), and of course I was worried about whether or not it would live up to my expectations. I was worried about whether or not it would live up to what Goldfrapp are capable of. Reality, there is nothing worse than waiting for something, wanting something, and then being let down when you finally have it. And in recent years, most veterans have released sub par and lackluster albums. But, “Head First” delivers! Should there have been any doubt? This duo (Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory) time and again prove that they have the musical chops to remain relevant and urgent, paying homage to the past while exploring new production techniques and arrangement styles.

Okay, admittedly, there is a barrage of 80s influenced pop acts out there – from Little Boots to LaRoux – so why should anyone pay attention to Goldfrapp? Well, to dismiss “Head First” as a simple 80s influenced electropop album is to outright ignore some of the tracks on this album. Not to mention, that the sounds may be all 80s, the pop sensibility is all ABBA. Most of these songs are not arranged in the same vein as 80s tracks were (though occasionally you hear some “Xanadu” in it), nor do these songs rely on the traditional hooks that the duo used in the past four albums. Instead of using a singular catchy element in a song as the lure, these songs are infectious as a whole. Furthermore, you will be pressed to say that this album has one archetypal, one signature, sound. Instead, brilliantly, Goldfrapp wisps through different electronic terrains, never given into frivolous or gloomy extremes.

The opening track, and lead single, “Rocket,” will definitely remind you of very early 80s in its visceral feel, but the sounds are all 2010. Followed by “Believer,” we move from early to mid 80s, and the song (especially in terms of bass line) is the one song that really stays true to the 80s. The introduction of a piano and a 70s disco feel accompanies the third track, “Alive,” and from this point on, you never know what to expect; appropriately Alison Goldfrapp sings, “Step out in a crazy world, but then the sun resets your mind. Feel the weight of it all just drift off on a cloud to another time. Oh hello, hello! I’m feeling alive again…” And these lines become the lens through which to listen to the entire album. This album resets Goldfrapp back away from the gloomier direction they were heading, while breathing new life into their sound.

My two favorite tracks on the album would be “Dreaming” and “Hunt.” “Dreaming” almost has that “Supernature” feel to the ostinato in the background, with ambient synth chords in the foreground. Maybe it is just me, but it would seem to be that their past collaborations with Manhattan Clique really rubbed off on this track. As for “Hunt,” it is just one of those songs that really got to me the first time I listened to it. Arguably the gloomiest song on the album (“Tell us nothing, tell us lies with elations, no surprise, tonight the hunt for you…”) From the breathing effects in the background to the synth weaving in and out, this is possibly the most sensual song that Goldfrapp has ever written – and of course gloomy and sensual together is a very difficult task to pull off, but when it is done well, it is incredible, and “Hunt” is incredible.

So, back to our question: Why should anyone pay attention to Goldfrapp? When the early 90s supplanted electro-music, and only “techno” bands made any headway, it was Goldfrapp among a handful of bands that brought electropop back onto the map. And from 2000 to 2010, a decade long of releasing (five) albums, Goldfrapp has been anything but complacent or repetitive. If anyone makes the mistake to assume that they are following the current trend, they blatantly have forgotten that Goldfrapp helped to set it. “Head First” is a shining example of the power of electropop, an amazing study of how 70s and 80s sensibility can be interwoven into something new and relevant in 2010, and a great exemplar of how a veteran band can continue to grow, improve, and deliver time and again. Do not skip this album!

Track Listing:
1. Rocket
2. Believer
3. Alive
4. Dreaming
5. Head First
6. Hunt
7. Shiny and Warm
8. I Wanna Life
9. Voicething

Keep up with Goldfrapp at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Rocket” from their MySpace Videos page.


GOLDFRAPP | MySpace Music Videos

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