Release Date: Sep 10, 2013
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Save for Goldfrapp’s brilliant 2000 debut Felt Mountain, what really sold the duo as a bona fide classic act that will surely retain its place in the legendary canon of English music was their hits collection The Singles. It showed, simply, just how many great songs Goldfrapp have made over the course of their almost 15-year existence. The duo’s latest record, Tales of Us, is their first since their label Mute regained its independence, and it is at least the equal of Felt Mountain, adding an especially fine group of memorable songs to their collection.
Goldfrapp fans know to expect changes from album to album, but the switch in direction between Head First and Tales of Us is one of the duo's most drastic about-faces. Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory's sixth album trade the neon nostalgia of Head First's synth pop for a subtler, more complex sound that evokes Felt Mountain's lushness and Seventh Tree's acoustic confessions. Tales of Us could be seen as a cross between those two works -- and Goldfrapp have certainly covered enough territory that they could live out their days making hybrids of their earlier music -- but there's more to the album than that.
Where once electro-disco goddess Alison Goldfrapp was saving all her icy love—erm, lust—for “a strict machine,” she now appears to us stripped of all those futuristic longings. On this, her namesake band’s sixth album, she’s gone, it seems…all Cotswolds on us. The rather intimately titled Tales of Us is, to be sure, alive with the pastoral colors of a world beyond the urban pandemonium; and all but one of the songs intriguingly bear a person’s name—ostensibly the “us” of the title.
Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory took two years out to make their sixth album after reportedly feeling rushed by their record label on 2010's desultory Head First. The difference is appreciable. Tales of Us is Goldfrapp in quiet, reflective mode: instead of foot-stomping electro-pop, we get slow, dreamy mood pieces with spare instrumentation and occasional orchestral flourishes.
Goldfrapp's sixth full-length can be boiled down to a simple equation: guitar, strings, and frontwoman Alison Goldfrapp's ethereal soprano. It can also be reduced to a catchy band pairing: Vashti Bunyan recast by David Lynch. Or heck, how about a tagline: This fall, Goldfrapp explores...the Tales of Us. (Say it in your best announcer's voice.) But while Goldfrapp may have made a simple album, wrought from the melancholy DNA of Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree, they have not made a simplistic album.
The veil has been lifted. Details concerning Goldfrapp‘s haunting, noirish sixth album Tales of Us were sparse at first. A promotional trailer was released in June, but it had quietly flown past the radar until a stunning black and white video appeared in late summer for “Drew”, the record’s exquisite first single. I hadn’t been aware Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory were even intending to deliver a record this year, and I was uncertain as to what sound they would be presenting this time around.
''People lack all feelings/ over the city tonight'' Alison Goldfrapp sibilates on opening track Jo, while a two-note piano sequence pulses between each verse. Gone is the disco romp of Head First and the synth groove of songs like 2005’s Ooh La La. Proudly present are crescendoing strings, silky cello flourishes, and an atmospheric beauty so invested in itself that it’s hard not to wonder whether desolation really feels as awful as we think it does.
Most current EDM is influenced by a historical timeline that begins with Katy Perry and ends with the latest cruddy Avicii single. So it's nice to have an old-guard pro like Alison Goldfrapp—whose career started when most modern club kids were still in diapers, with appearances on canonical '90s electronica albums by Tricky, Orbital, and Add N to X—still kicking around. Over the last decade, her work with Will Gregory as Goldfrapp has proven that Debbie Harry fronting Kraftwerk is the greatest idea the '70s never had.
Goldfrapp have spent the last decade trying on different outfits, never really letting anything stick long enough to see if it was a good look. It’s a strategy that pays off as often as it turns out distracting: they’ve struck gold (the sensual disco of Supernature), they’ve fallen flat (2008’s snoozeworthy Seventh Tree), and they’ve stumbled admirably (the uneven 80s pastiche of Head First). But on Tales of Us, their sixth album, they return to the sound of the album that originally made them famous, 2000’s fantastically witchy Felt Mountain.
Goldfrapp must be the bane of industry executives who prefer pop to come in marketable boxes. Where the duo's debut mixed Weimar cabaret, folk and David Lynch-style eeriness, their mid-period hits went European disco. This sixth album veers closer to the former in creating a fantasy environment. Tracks given characters' names are a vehicle for Alison Goldfrapp to purr tales of romance, possession and psychological horror over guitar and minimal orchestrations.
English duo Goldfrapp indulged in fluffy, Xanadu-inspired 80s pop on 2010's Head First, a flimsy but sometimes fun effort Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory now characterize as a rush job made to meet a deadline set by their label's former parent, EMI. Free from external pressure, they're back with a dark, pastoral folk album showcasing the impressive control and nuance in Alison's breathy, five-octave soprano. The pair typically alternate between sexed-up dance-pop and psychedelic ambience, but Tales Of Us is their most pared-down effort in the latter category.
A prologue to Tales of Us: A foggy creek lies ahead, dragonflies buzz in your ear, and as you tiptoe to the water’s edge, vibrant colors swirl around like melted Crayola crayons. Suddenly, there’s a prick at your nose and a fairy-like creature whizzes by giggling and taunting. Bottom line: You’re not in Kansas anymore; you’re in a quixotic fantasy designed and governed by Goldfrapp.
From fragrance ads to fashion shows, dancefloors to dinner parties, Goldfrapp were inescapable a decade ago. The cyber-glam duo fanned the dying embers of electroclash on albums like ‘Black Cherry’ (2003) and ‘Supernature’ (2005), and emerged its most triumphant exponents. They then crept away from disco, and the far more grown-up pastime of folktronica followed on 2008’s ‘Seventh Tree’.
Composer Will Gregory and vocalist Alison Goldfrapp, both from the UK, have been writing music together under the name Goldfrapp since 2000, when they released “Felt Mountain” — a weird, seductive venture into a world of retro and futuristic synths, cabaret atmospherics, and Bond songs that never were. Later, they moved toward electropop/dance music. “Tales of Us” is closer to “Felt Mountain” and “Seventh Tree” (their folk-influenced 2008 album) than to the rest of their work.
Talented duo Goldfrapp – singer Alison Goldfrapp and producer Will Gregory – reinvent themselves with each new release. Harkening to the softer folk sounds of their debut more than 10 years ago, Tales of Us, their sixth album, does not possess any of the grinding, dance pop sounds for which Goldfrapp has become increasingly known. Tales barely creeps above a whisper as the soft genteel sounds of violins, piano, acoustic guitar and other stringed instruments float and dance off of Alison’s delicate and pristine vocals.
Few artists possess the chutzpah and imagination to perennially reinvent themselves as successfully as Goldfrapp have done in a career encompassing baroque torch song balladry, Schaffel-beat glam, pastoral folk and Moroder-influenced electro-pop. If the duo’s genre-defying dilettantism hasn’t always been met with universal approval (the glitzy, ephemeral pop stylings of last album Head First divided critics beguiled by the understated charms of predecessor Seventh Tree), they’ve at least retained an aura of mystique, fuelled by an enduring curiosity about which direction Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory will turn next in their musical odyssey. It’s something of a surprise then, to discover that sixth album Tales Of Us sounds as close as you can get to quintessential Goldfrapp, if such a thing exists.
opinion byMIRANDA THOMPSON 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.
It’s shocking how Goldfrapp have managed to lead a double life over the past decade, ditching electronics (‘Supernature’, ‘Black Cherry’) for acoustics (‘Felt Mountain’, ‘Seventh Tree’) almost at random, without ever losing their evidently dependable fanbase.On ‘Tales of Us’, their first album in three years, the acoustic guitar and string sections are back wearing First Team Colours. So inevitably, this is gentle stuff, not exactly a shock to the system, and not far from ‘Seventh Tree”s lackadaisical chill. Appropriately, the overarching feeling is that of profound intimacy.