Goldfrapp – Tales of Us (2013)

Goldfrapp - tales of usOn several occasions Goldfrapp left fans of old empty handed. For those of you who don’t know, Goldfrapp once was famed for their darkish, icy and cinematic breakthrough album, Felt Mountain that was released more than a decade ago. A few years after this success Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory decided to radically change their focus to glam electronics and combined this with a ‘Lady Gagaish’ look and feel on stage. Personally I was startled by the contents of the successor Black Cherry (2003) but also secretly accepted this album to be my guilty pleasure of the year. That year I also noticed that I wasn’t alone in this. Black Cherry was sold in very large numbers and picked up by Coca-Cola, Nintendo and Armani who used Goldfrapp’s tunes for commercial purposes. Obviously this popularity led to a follow up album in 2005. Supernature was meant to be an extension of the previous success and flourished on many hot and sweaty dance floors around the world. Next up was Seventh Tree (2008), an album that slightly reassured me because its rationale was of a more delicate and tranquil nature. Did this foreshadow a return to the early years of Goldfrapp? Alas it didn’t, for on their fifth album was neglectable. On Head First (2010) Goldfrapp reverted themselves to catchy dance music. When you try and sum this up in one sentence one can only conclude that Goldfrapp’s discography is not one you need to aline chronologically. This summer he latest scion from the duo was released on Mute Records and to be honest, I don’t know what to expect anymore. Yet after more than a decade, my devotion to Felt Mountain is still strongly present so I’m willing to give it another shot.

As always Alison Goldfrapp is featured on the front cover. And usually she’s portrayed in an eccentric pose, yet on Tales of Us she’s looking downward in a dark and gloomy environment. Could this cover herald that the atmosphere of Tales of Us will finally break away from its glammy predecessors. After an initial listen I’m already able to conclude that this is indeed the case! Tales of Us counts ten fragile tracks that clearly reminds me of… okay, I’ll put that aside for a moment.

Notably all of the track titles with the exception of Stranger all consist of singular names and seem weightless in one way or another. Jo opens with a set of dreamy guitars and breathes out comforting feeling of dejectedness. In a calm pace the album unfolds itself further. Annabel, a song about transgenderism, and Drew are almost hypnotic. The latter is however supplemented with tiny shards of a Bond-like score. Gorgeous arrangements steadily push the album forward until Thea is reached, a minimalistic track that’s all about building up anxiety. With a compelling baseline as a backbone and Goldfrapp’s layered voice dictating the level of suspense, Thea has everything in it to become Trip Hop classic. Lyrically the album continues to be imaginative and doesn’t avoid sensitive topics. Simone for example, is a short narrative about adultery. Violence is not shunned either for Laurel is a noir story about a killer and seems to be inspired by the folklore surrounding Jack the Ripper. Lugubrious or not, Tales of Us ends in style with a soothing ballad and swelling orchestral work.

Like you would have guessed Tales of Us clearly reminds me of Felt Mountain although subtle differences are indeed present. Most obvious is the difference that Felt Mountain is sort of a dark and romantic soundtrack to a movie that was never made. With Tales of Us Goldfrapp picks up this love for Lynchian cinematics and combines this with the love for the short story. Storytelling plays a central role in the contents of Goldfrapp’s latest. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that a sequence of five short films (or video clips) will accompany the album. And by the looks of it surrealistic black and white imagery will predominate. Nice! Admittedly, I’m glad Goldfrapp finally is back where it belongs. With all due respect to the albums on which glamm and synths are rampant, Tales of Us is true reason why Goldfrapp should be adored and is importantly, the long awaited continuation of Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree. This release is intriguing, haunting and utmost beautiful and therefore a must buy for those who longed for Goldfrapp to return to form.

Label: Mute Records

1. Jo (5:35)
2. Annabel (3:59)
3. Drew (4:44)
4. Ulla (3:47)
5. Alvar (4:35)
6. Thea (4:47)
7. Simone (4:14)
8. Stranger (4:09)
9. Laurel (4:09)
10. Clay (4:20)

Further surfing:
Official website
Stream Tales of Us on Spotify
Goldfrapp on Mute Records
Goldfrapp on Twitter
Goldfrapp – Oh La La on Youtube

Review by Wander Meulemans // VOR070913


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