Review: Goldfrapp – Tales of Us

goldfrapp tales of us
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When I bought Jennifer Lopez’s 2002 album This is Me… it was because I’d played J.Lo to bits. Over and over again, until dance routines were perfected and lyrics learnt by heart. On that reasoning, I expected the follow-up album to be nothing but sensational – and packed to the gills with Ja-Rule. But she’d gone all soft: switched up her ‘musical direction’ and instead of streetwise sass, sap and soppiness ruled.

There’s a little echo of the same experience here. You think you know Goldfrapp? Think again. If you’re expecting dark disco, back away. But if you like stripped back, melodic, wonderful music, come a little closer. Have a look at Tales of Us. Because This is Goldfrapp… now. And there’s no Ben Affleck in sight.

There’s more to the Goldfrapp resume than sparkly synthpop and fizzy electronics. Folk, dance, even trip-hop – the duo are have-a-go musical heroes, with their efforts rewarded by varying degrees of success. This season, their guise is all natural. And acoustic guitars are the order of the day as they seek to reflect and re-familiarize themselves with the softer sounds of their first album. There’s a degree of theatre to it all, too, from the promotional videos for the record that Goldfrapp collaborated on with her director girlfriend right to the music itself; the evocative “searching for love / a wild side” “Laurel” feels like it should soundtrack some arthouse short (and probably will).

It is delicious autumnal listening: an album to crack out on a Sunday afternoon and enjoy the delicate orchestration that curls into your earholes. The piano on album opener “Jo” sounds like raindrops splashing on your windowpane, while the strings keen like the winter winds. And “Annabel” could be a contemplative Kate Bush breathing a cold winter frost on her Wuthering Heights.

Snuggle up and find the stories on each mononym-named track: “Clay” was inspired by a real-life soldier’s letter to his dead military lover. Feel the yearning through lyrics like “Your deep sea eyes / ancient stars.” Alison Goldfrapp’s is a continual caress; melting through the layers of sound on “Alvar,” a sweet songbird on “Simone.”

Tales of You is all rather beautiful, but also rather quiet. Possibly too quiet, at points; the sounds of breathing on “Stranger” detracted from the actual music. The listener is left feeling more melancholic than uplifted: “Feel the cold arrive in my bones,” she sighs on “Drew.” You’re left with some empty hole in your gut that you previously weren’t aware of. But perhaps that’s what Goldfrapp wanted. [B]

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