120. Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp (Mute, 2008)
Alison Goldfrapp worked in the mid-’90s as a session vocalist, singing with such electro-centric UK acts as Orbital, Dreadzone, and Tricky. In ’99 she formed a duo of her own in London with another session musician, Will Gregory, and gave it her name. Their 2000 debut, Felt Mountain, is a melange of atmospheric, electronic cabaret. Seventh Tree, their fourth LP, replaces the electroclash of ’03’s Black Cherry and the cold glam-dance crunch of the ’06 Supernature with gentle, warm performances whose muted electronic frameworks are draped with acoustic guitars and strings. The drumless opener Clowns is carried by a softly plucked guitar, and is the most atypical piece here; but, its tone resonates even through the album’s poppiest moments. Alison Goldfrapp’s dynamic soprano covers more stylistic ground here than ever, from the ponderous murmuring of Clowns to the soaring choruses of Little Bird and the assertive pop of Caravan Girl. The lyrics often counterbalance the pastoral moods: Clowns addresses a childish, shallow figure (“What’d ya wanna look like Barbie for?”); the bubbly Happiness mocks a cult’s cynical promises; A&E (the UK equivalent of a US emergency room) concerns a person who waited in vain for a lover’s call only to wake up in hospital, possibly after a pill overdose. Yet the album is no gloomy affair; the songs retain a hopeful glow that matches the late-summer sunlight of the cover art. Goldfrapp’s shape-shifting Aughts output contains many fine moments, but none of the decade’s four albums is as fulfilling and cohesive as Seventh Tree.
Highlights: Caravan Girl, Little Bird, A&E
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