Trading in the techno dance beats of 2006’s Supernatural that was an advertising agent’s wet dream, Goldfrapp opts for a 70’s style singer/songwriter inspired album on Seventh Tree, reminiscent of a Joni Mitchell record. Especially appropriate since singer Allison Goldfrapp‘s vocal style is very similar to Joni’s on several songs on the album, though you may never have noticed in the setting of the group’s previous albums.
I have to say, that despite my fondness for Goldfrapp and classic singer/songwriters, this album had few glowing moments for me, and those don’t start showing up until track seven. The brightest of these is “A & E.” Despite my first thought, this is not a ballad about a cable network. The romantic track lets Allison’s voice shine and has a melody that is more catchy that sleepy. The sweet intro has a simple hook that catches the ear almost immediately.
Next up would be “Caravan Girl,” which could be a big 80’s rock song of the guitars were a little louder and Allison’s voice were grittier. This is especially true of the driving drum and bass that run though the song.
Of course, unlike Joni Mitchell and her legendary singer/songwriter counter parts, this album as a whole goes beyond a laid back sound to down right sleepy. If they were trying to really make a statement with the lyrics, it all gets lost in vocals that are low and whispery in the mix, making you miss the soulful voice from Supernatural. Musically, the acoustic meets electronic sound makes no real effort to stand up and do anything, opting instead to just sit and be little more than background music. Had there been just a sprinkling more pop it would feel very much like a Leona Naess album, but this lacks the hooks to quite make it.
Granted, this album has its place. It wasn’t meant to be a carbon copy of Supernatural, which personally I could listen to as what I call foreground entertainment, meaning I could listen to it and focus on the music to keep my mind busy. Seventh Tree is more background entertainment: it doesn’t so much stand on its own as enhance other things. It would certainly make a grand background selection for a dinner party or for an introspective car ride. I can easily see this being used heavily in movie soundtracks like Garden State II: The Mallrat’s Revenge. I’ve even taken to listening to it while reading. And though I’m not one to test it, it sounds like some of the albums I’ve heard heralded as soundtracks for taking a downer and staring at the ceiling, too.
On the other hand I can see this album being adopted by the hipster crowd, if for no other reason than an album cover that’s ripped from the pages of an Urban Outfitters catalog. That and certain flavors of hipsters tend to lean towards sleepy time music.
Don’t start accusing me of panning any artist who branches out and does something different. Quite the contrary! I have the utmost respect of Goldfrapp for going out of their comfort zone and trying something different. I much prefer experimentation to growing stagnate any day.
It should be said, that with only two really great tracks, it’s possible that this album may have been better served as an EP. It would have less time to get monotonous and cut down on a great deal of what feels like filler.