Goldfrapp exchange electro-glam for haunting, cinematic soundscapes on Tales of Us.
7.6 / 10
It seems there are two versions of British duo Goldfrapp: the glammy electro-pop one, and the one that specialize in laid-back, hazy dreaminess. Tales of Us definitely falls into the latter category, with an overall vibe that’s reminiscent of the pastoral folk of 2008′s Seventh Tree, only darker and more dramatic, resulting in a cinematic sound that’s both beautiful and sinister-sounding.
Opener “Jo” provides the general template: languidly strummed acoustic guitars, ethereal background atmospherics, and minimal percussion, with Alison Goldfrapp’s sensual vocals acting as a focal point to the moody ambiance. Continuing in this vein is first single “Annabel”, a gorgeous, deceptively simple song with spare instrumentation and moving lyrics dealing with gender identity. It’s a rather emotionally stirring listen, and one of the strongest tracks here.
Most of the songs have haunting undercurrents, as heard on “Drew” and “Simone”, both of which feature dreamy, blissful acoustic soundscapes that are underscored with eerie strings and piano. The combination of beauty and freaky on these tracks and others create some conflicting emotions within the listener, where one is never quite sure whether to be scared or just drift away to a relaxed, serene state. David Lynch-ian is an overused adjective when describing music, but it suits this album perfectly.
“Thea” is the only track that really busts out of the calm waters, with its slowly thumping electronic dance beat backing layered vocal tracks that intertwine with the synths beautifully. It’s a fine track that provides a nice change of pace, though it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of Tales of Us, an album whose strength lies in its ability to transport the listener not to the dance floor, but into a narcotic, hypnotized state.
It’s also an album in which the sum is greater than its parts, meaning it works better when listened to as a whole, as if it were a film. Each song builds off the previous one, to the point that the quiet beauty of string-laden closer “Clay” feels like it’s almost soaring after the gloominess of all that came before. Taken individually, there are only a few standout tracks here. Collectively, they’re nearly all standouts.