Sweet Soundscape

Many moons ago, when Goldfrapp‘s album first leaked, it caused a mass hub-bub amongst popthusiasts everywhere as a torrent of outrage and disappointment surged up within the community. How could Goldfrapp turn so abysmally soft? Where were the ripping guitars of “Ooh La La”, or the pulsating electric waves of “Strict Machine” that practically oozed sexual intensity out from the headphones? All that’s been shelved. For now, at least. Yes, if you’ve come back seeking the polished synthesizers and dirty beats that defined Goldfrapp for the past two years, then kindly turn the other ear and revert your attention to their 2005 gem, Supernature.

In a way, this new album is the necessary come-down from their dancefloor past. For all of the ferocity and glamour that Supernature provided, there was hardly room to breathe within the CD. Even the slower tracks seemed to have such a raw and gritty texture to them that none truly felt like a departure from the grinding beats. So naturally, hearing Seventh Tree for the first time was a confounding experience.

I’ll admit: I got a bit nervous after hearing the entirety of the album. Had Goldfrapp’s sophisticated sense of humor faded out within the last verses of “Number One” on Supernature? After all, there’s nothing ostensibly chic about Seventh Tree. In this album’s choral, airy dimension, I feared that Alison had simply gone limp. It wasn’t until the first verse lyrics of the opening track “Clowns” finally spilled onto the Internet that I could rest easy:

Only clowns would play with those balloons
What’d ya wanna look like Barbie for?
Dear oh lord it’s easy
Roasting, roasting, roast indeed, mahogany,
titties that live on on and on on and on

Only clowns would play with those balloons
What’d ya wanna look like Barbie for?
Passive when I’m in record day & night
I’m watching you

Plastic surgery and artificial tans. Who knew that’s what she had been whispering about the whole time? A cheeky stab (tee-hee!) at breast implants which ends up gliding across the airwaves as silky smooth as a child’s nighttime lullaby. Oh, she’s still got it all right. And who says these aren’t lullabies anyway? Titties that live on happily ever after? That’s the stuff of fantasy.

From there on, the album continues to satisfy in its ethereal and ever-so-slightly twisted concoction of drifting, carousel-like music. The music is morbid to me, yet in no way distressing. There is something buried deep within these songs that keep the tracks from shining too brightly, like an Air album’s haunting beauty.

And no, in case you’re worried, the album’s not a complete downer. There are certain tracks that emit a pure form of hopeful youthfulness, like the fairly obvious “Happiness” which sounds rather chipper compared to the echoed hollowness of its predecessors. Even the chilly single “A&E” offers shimmering shards of electronic warmth and in between Alison’s increasingly soaring vocals. It’s the sort of thing I’d imagine hearing during a crisp morning walk in the fall.

If there’s one thing that Goldfrapp consistently nails, it’s the ability to combine the visual experience with the aural. The album’s presentation is a piece of art; like Alison has said in former interviews, she views her music as a visual experience. Each of Goldfrapp’s albums tend to rely upon strong imagery, and Seventh Tree is no exception. The artwork from this era blend effortlessly with its accompanying musical selection. Images of eclectically garbed Alison frolicking within a sea of grass while the sun’s last rays die quietly in the distance. The washed out appearance of the CD, along with the 8mm accompanying video for “Clowns” all contribute to the faded appeal of the album.

Though the sound strays further away from the electro-pop of Black Cherry, closer to the chilled Felt Mountain, and nearly opposite to Supernature, Seventh Tree remains a decidedly vital addition of its own in the Goldfrapp discography. That being said, this is not an album meant to supply the advertising campaign of Verizon Wireless’ latest phone commercials. The album’s atmosphere isn’t immediately inviting, but eventually I found myself enveloped in the soundscape. I know I can’t change the minds of those who bitterly discard this effort as little more than a dull offering, but as far as I can see, this is one blissfully dull offering.

DL: Goldfrapp – A&E
DL: Goldfrapp – Clowns
DL: Goldfrapp – Caravan Girl

If you are interested in purchasing Goldfrapp’s new album Seventh Tree, please buy the album from Amazon or iTunes.

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