Blue Songs sees Hercules lynchpin Andy Butler and his shape-shifting array of chums return, after scoring gold in the collaborative and critical sense with a self-titled 2008 debut. That breakthrough was spearheaded by the sublime Yazoo-channelling single Blind, with vocals by Antony Hegarty (of ...and the Johnsons fame); its parent LP a record justifiably celebrated as one of the best of its kind to emerge in the last decade.
For the follow-up, Butler has moved away from the distraction-heavy New York scene in favour of his hometown of Denver; he also recorded in Vienna with techno legend Patrick Pulsinger. Again, a troupe of contributors has been assembled – appearing alongside mainstay Kim Ann Foxman are Venezuelan singer Aerea Negrot, Shaun Wright and Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. The results mostly reference the 1985-1994 house era that Butler’s own label, Mr Intl., operates within. But this is no pastiche of that time, more a further exploration – and added elements of future disco ensure Blue Songs is very much relevant in 2011.
Opener Painted Eyes, featuring the octave-tastic lungs of Negrot, is pure 21st century Sylvester. Lead single My House couldn’t be more 1989 hands-aloft deep house – you expect Adeva to pop up at any moment; even its accompanying video seems like a lost episode of Dance Energy. Boy Blue features mellow acoustic strums underpinned by a menacing electronic throb and brass swells, sounding not unlike something from Screamadelica. Kele’s contribution to Step Up continues his disco epiphany, and drags him even further into the house nation; and there can be no better tune than the uptown Chic disco of Falling for getting ready to before a big night out. The album closes with a slowed-down abstract take on Sterling Void’s It’s Alright – the sentiments work, even if they are lost a bit in the non-largeness of its soundbed.
Hercules and Love Affair have vaulted over any second album worries with a jubilant and celebratory collection of large tunes. Blue Songs has the ability to sound great whether you’re cleaning the flat, swinging in a hammock or heading down the rave-up. Smashing stuff.
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