Release Date: Sep 21, 2010
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Post-Rock, Experimental Rock, Ambient Pop
For almost 20 years, Laetitia Sadier has been fronting the dazzlingly retro-futuristic Stereolab, and she's also made room to indulge in a playful dream-pop side project, Monade. But The Trip, her first album under her own name, still feels like a coming-out party. Following Stereolab's recently announced hiatus (the band's upcoming Not Music was culled from the sessions for 2008's Chemical Chords) and the disbanding of Monade, Sadier is finally on her own.
Stereolab chanteuse flies solo With her distinctly ethereal voice, it’s hard to imagine Laetitia Sadier operating outside the dreamy electro-pop of her longtime band Stereolab or her side-project Monade. What sets her solo debut apart from her past work is its emotional frankness. The Trip opens with the spacey synths of “One Million Year Trip,” a sobering tale about her sister’s suicide: “My little sister’s voice / Forever muted, inaudible / She went on a million year trip / And left everything behind.” Where Stereolab’s songwriting was tangential and detached, with lyrics arranged around the melody, Sadier’s solo work is deeply reflective, her words at center stage.
It took almost 20 years of making music for Laetitia Sadier to release a true solo album. Though her Stereolab side project Monade began as her own endeavor, it morphed into another band (albeit one fronted by Sadier). While it features two former Monade members, The Trip feels more like a true solo effort, if only because its raison d’être is so personal: Sadier was inspired by her younger sister Noelle’s suicide, and her grieving process, to write these songs.
Stereolab were one of the most proficient and unique synergies of pop’s last 20 years, and if you’re reading this — if you’re interested in what vocalist Laetitia Sadier’s up to now — you may agree with we the ravenous that the world lost a truly great thing when they announced their hiatus. Most importantly, the true-blooded Stereolab fan (and I’m mistrustful of anyone who slings Emperor Tomato Ketchup into his or her personal canon and calls it a day/career) wouldn’t have seen the Groop’s final decade as any sort of a ‘decline. ’ I’m more than partial to their earliest work, but if anything, they did nothing but hone: 2008’s swan song, Chemical Chords, was an exercise in inhabiting cyclical sets of crap-shoot triads until they were songs, colorful chords stacked like Duplos, pop music by induction.
It could be said of Laetitia Sadier that her career has been governed by journeys. One of the main themes of her Stereolab side-project Monade was “becoming”, of continually opening doors both musical and personal. Indeed, the journey from bedroom-bound spare-time project to full band with records and tours was one such journey. The same could be said of the lengthy and labyrinthine trajectory of Stereolab too, what with Sadier and Tim Gane’s failed union and the band’s 20-year lifespan apparently now on hold.
If your career shows no sign of progression over time, is that necessarily a bad thing? If you’re in full-time employment, your boss will answer with a definite, “yes”, and haul you in for a review before you can say, “rhetorical question”. But in music, it’s not quite that black and white. For example, Status Quo have been writing the same song since 1967 and are regularly scoffed at by critics, but it’s apparently completely fine for AC/DC to have had the exact same shtick since they appeared on the scene.