Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Post-Rock, Experimental Rock
Events as horrific as the Boko Harum kidnappings, the police brutality of Ferguson, and the IS insurgency in the Levant are enough to make the whole idea of talking about Art Music more than just a little existential. As Rome burns a few tabs over, we talk about the keyboards on Krapp’s last limited-run noise tape. But to get buried under that tomb of a thought is a dodge in itself, because in the same fashion that all criticism functions in a political way — favoring one possible world over others while jotting notes on the distance between this one and that — all music exists on some kind of political level.
One slight against British indie outfit Stereolab is that their post-millennium material began to adopt a perpetual sense of sameness. So, when the quintet went on hiatus in 2009, Sadier seemingly addressed the issue with her outstanding 2010 solo debut, The Trip, taking on a more traditional singer/songwriter role. After reverting back to Stereolab's space-age pop for 2012's Silencio, Sadier has found a happy medium on her latest, Something Shines.As the fittingly titled "Quantum Soup" proves, Sadier hasn't found total complacency in her sound, as the opening track moves from Krautrock chug to breezy jazz to Tropicália weirdness.
“We want to be able to be inspired, contemplate beauty, achieve excellence, and live life to the fullest. But we are governed by an exploitative economic system which is keeping this from happening”. So states Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier—in her native French—in “Manifest”, a track from We Are Divine, the debut album by her latest outfit Little Tornados.
Stereolab has a definitive place in the landscape of modern music. They spawned the indie-electronic movement that caught on stateside in the aughts and has come to shape our current popular culture. Analog synths are now casually mentioned in car commercials, the Arcade Fire won a Grammy, LCD Soundsystem sold out Madison Square Garden. Hell, Jens Lekman sold us an Amazon Kindle.
Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed. Nothing was likely to be the same again for Laetitia Sadier and Stereolab following the death of their band mate Mary Hansen; they managed one more album in the wake of that devastating event before going on an indefinite hiatus in 2009. Since then, Sadier has released two solo records, pretty much in the style of her old band, plus formed a new, more countrified outfit in the shape of Little Tornados.
Maybe Laetitia Sadier should blow all of our minds and release a folk record? Stranger things have happened and it’s not like the former Stereolab vocalist is in rut, but I must say, when I hear Something Shines (or her two previous solo records) it sounds like I’m listening to a Stereolab record and that band group disbanded a few years ago — and seemed to be in a rut on its last few records. Something Shines was recorded in both Switzerland and London with a host of friends in and around Europe and the record and like all records that Sadier is involved with, the lyrics are both heady and political. Opening with the spacey “Quantum Soup” the record then bubbles along and doesn’t really take off until the soaring 5th track, the aptly named “Release From the Center of Your Heart” which seems like a exultant rebirth for Sadier while the following cut, “Butter Side Up”, has a subtle yet lovely little melody.