on 12 September 2013
'Tales of Us' is the sixth studio album from the seminal Goldfrapp.
Looking at the spread of reviews so far (not just on Amazon) it seems that this record has divided opinion and for a band that has expressed such eclecticism in their career this is not too much of a surprise. As a return to their original Felt Mountain sound fans of the more upbeat euro-pop-synths (Head First) are ultimately left disappointed. This, in my opinion, is a great shame.
I have to admit my allegiance for now - I have always preferred the earlier works - this is the sound I seem to identify with much more. Rich textures of (sometimes cliché) arpeggiated guitar, sweeping synth and downtempo beats. A backing track that is reminiscent of the mystic escapism of Massive Attack draped in haunting poetic vocals.
Throughout this record there remains a folk undertone that mostly takes control of the lyrics and Alison Goldfrapp commands a brooding sincerity that acts as the backbone for the ambience. But the word ambience is perhaps too emotionally soft. Aside from a couple of less memorable tracks, the majority of the record is poised precariously in the more haunting side of chill. Icy, misty, foggy are words that come to mind. Evocatively cascading melodies print images of fairytale lands - the production in the English countryside bearing a clear influence on the production.
This is not a new concept album but Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have returned to what they do best - whilst the record lacks a diversity in sound or pace it is entirely effective.
I finished this record with shivers. And a desire to tell a lot of people about it. To let people know that Goldfrapp are back.
Listen to: 'Alvar', 'Clay'
Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory's sixth album is a huge stylistic leap away from their previous release, 'Head First'. Much less immediate than anything they've brought out since 'Felt Mountain', the subtle, seductive, understated 'Tales of Us' is nevertheless also possibly their most rounded and satisfying album to date.
Anyone expecting the poptastic sparkle of 'Head First' or the crunching Eurobeats of 'Supernature' will be bored to death. These are slow, reflective, late-night songs, whose sonic landscape is dominated by acoustic guitar, piano and lush, symphonic strings. Will Gregory's electronica is buried deep in the mix, contributing mainly at the level of texture and atmosphere. The producion is warm and velvety, but still with an edge of dark, slightly pervy menace. Alison Goldfrapp's smouldering vocals are a breathy delight, dripping with deep honey, and still capable of running an icy finger down your spine when she hits the higher registers.
So, the album sounds great, but what's probably most impressive about 'Tales of Us' is the lyrical sophistication of the songwriting, which is a quantum leap ahead of anything in Goldfrapp's earlier canon. The songs operate as oblique, crepuscular character sketches of broken, damaged demi-mondaine men and women. Across the span of the album they cohere together into the aural equivalent of some kind of a Euro film-noir - an impression further reinforced by the cinematic sweep of the music. It's an album that unfolds slowly, and which demands patience and close attention, but which won't let go once it has you in its sinister grip.
Goldfrapp's sixth studio album `Tales of Us' is a fine and mature piece of work, possibly their best. Though it can sound on a casual first pass like a background muzak soundscape, repeat listening reveals the album to be a delicate mood piece with Alison's subdued and breathy vocals delivered with a finesse matched by the sensitive and imaginative instrumental work of Will Gregory. Orchestral strings feature in the arrangements as often as synthesizers.
The song titles are one-worders, each a person's name. The tunes are rather traditional in structure, delicate and uncomplicated but the whole effect adds up to something special, each song building on the mood of the last. Like watching a film composed of different scenes, each adding to the story, the album works best when listened to as a whole from beginning to end.
Party music this is not, but for the early hours of the morning, or for afternoon contemplation, it's perfect. True it may not be to everyone's taste, but it may be to yours. Give it a listen.
on 22 February 2015
Apart from having a fantastic name, Goldfrapp have also had a reasonable amount of success since their formation in 1999. They've had 2 Grammy Award nominations and a Mercury Prize shortlisting and their latest album "Tales Of Us" is their 4th Top 10 UK album in a row. Although all of their albums have been characterised by Alison Goldfrapp's soft vocals and the musical arrangements they overlay, their sound has been in a constant states of flux, with very few of their albums sounding much like the ones that have gone before.
When I was much younger, I remember lying wrapped up warm and cosy in bed on a weekend morning and my Mum would have the washing machine or the vacuum cleaner running and the white noise would soothe me back to sleep of just make me feel somehow safe. In many places, I get exactly the same feeling from "Tales Of Us". This is not an album that you actively listen to as much as you put it on and let it affect you. You won't want to dance or sing along, but you may well find that, after a long day, many of the cares of the day will smooth away. "Tales Of Us", for me at least, is the aural equivalent of a soothing massage after a long run.
There's not an awful lot of variation here, but the album doesn't need it. It's not intended to be an album that will move you, it's intended as an album that will help you stop moving, stop rushing. This isn't just a club chill out album, it's a life chill out album. This is an album that will wrap you in its arms and rock your gently to sleep, unfurrow your brow and ease your mind. It is great value for 10 tracks and 44 minutes of music that will soothe in a far healthier way than any Valium and in a much cheaper way than any massage.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
on 13 September 2013
I fell in love with Goldfrapp's music about nine years ago and I love each and every album the band have produced. Tales of Us is very much a contender for the very best. I have listened endlessly to the album over the past week and I find the beauty of the music and lyrics absolutely stunning. All of the tracks offer something special and Alison and Will have obviously crafted this album with great care, love and attention. Never stop making great music Goldfrapp, my life just wouldn't be the same without your wonderful, inspiring music.
on 9 September 2013
Cinematic is an over-used term, but it applies to Goldfrapp because their hinterland is so full with references from film, art and literature that it creates light as subtle as dawn or dusk over their songs, and never more beautifully realised than on Tales of Us.
From the first taster it was obvious this was going to be something of a landmark - all the elements from Felt Mountain which make Goldfrapp special (a flawless knowledge of musicianship as opposed to pop tunes) distilled for an immediate escape into something mesmeric and beautiful. Anyone who's ever felt the hairs on their neck prickle at a score by Ennio Morricone or John Barry - to name just the obvious - cannot fail to be grateful for this album. There's no meandering - the songs are as consistent as a beautifully shot film yet driven with inspired hooks and melodies that flash and surprise and get caught in your mind.
It's also utterly contemporary - sparse, dark and intoxicating. `Thea' drives through the quieter waters with deep, dark rhythms... I don't mean to reference Kate Bush musically, but if you imagine the impact of something like The Ninth Wave in one sitting, you'll get an idea of how Tales of Us casts its spell. Just remember it's not pop - it's timeless and shining and masterful.
on 6 February 2014
The thing to understand about Goldfrapp : They are exploring new ground with every release and that's what I love about them. Yes the fans of Black Cherry and Supernature ( I, by the way own both in Vinyl - Mega rare) will be disappointed while it will appeal to the fans of "Felt Mountain". Now, "Tales of us" is like a movie, I purchased the limited edition box set and it has incredible artwork, photography book and all that compliment the album. Yes you need to listen to it quite a few times to "print" the melodies in your mind but the more you listen to it, the more it becomes alive and beautiful. Definitely a masterpiece.
on 9 September 2013
An outfit as schizophrenic as Goldfrapp are always going to divide opinion and sure enough those who liked the execrable Head First (which Alison Goldfrapp has gone on record as saying she dislikes) thoroughly object to the mature & low-key tone of this latest opus. Well as far as I am concerned they can eat bingo since this is a superb piece of work and is finally the album hinted at on 2008's "Seventh Tree". Alison sings beautifully with an ethereal undertow which occasionally brings to mind her work on Goldfrapp's classic debut, "Felt Mountain". The backing in the main consists of lush strings and acoustic guitar with the sole exception of "Thea" which lays down some fairly strident beats but nevertheless STILL manages to sound otherworldly! Be aware that this is not pop music, it is mood music but without the dodgy new-age connotations that might bring to mind. Alison is now into her forties I reckon she sounds much more comfortable singing this music which frankly is more appropriate to her age rather than trying to self-consciously sing over something more suitable for someone 15-25 years younger as she attempted to do on Head First with less than stellar results.
Rather than a collection of individual tracks the album works by slow osmosis until you are thoroughly intoxicated by the whole rather the sum of the individual parts (very rare in this iTunes age) and that is part of its overall strength. I hope after the misstep of Head First and perhaps Alison's realisation that going back to the disco is probably not what she or a large portion of her original fanbase (who'll also be in their mid-late 30's/ early 40's) would want that she'll continue in this atmospheric and introspective vein whilst continuing to evolve in the patented Goldfrapp fashion.
on 8 January 2014
My husband loves Goldfrapp - took me to see her at Leamington Spa a couple of years ago - she is pretty marvellous. This album takes on a slightly different turn from her disco stuff and it works really well. Would love to see her again.
on 9 September 2013
Tales Of Us is where I think Goldfrapp are at their best.
Those reviewing the album by saying it's pretty much a copy of Felt Mountain are, perhaps, slightly lazy reviewers. Yes, the tone and style of the album is toned down and has a similar feel but apart from Laurel, which borrows the most from Felt Mountain, the album has clear vocals and less obvious signs of distorted, electronic music.
Yes, the album is reminiscent of Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree in style and tone, but Tales Of Us is more like an acoustic (for want of a better word) album with strings and the occasional drumming. You will probably like this album more if you are a fan of those two albums. You're not going to find dancey club hits on Tale Of Us.
There's very little of the camp-electro you find on Black Cherry, Supernature or Head First on this album (Thea comes closest; a song which wouldn't be out of place in the Head First era). Although they do their electro stuff really well I am glad they have opted for a simple, stripped down album with Tales Of Us.
Highlights of the album for me are Alvar and Clay, the latter being the best they have made in a long time. I think you'd need to listen to the full thing a few times to capture how great this album is. It's one of those albums which takes time to click (especially if you favour the likes of Oh La La and Strict Machine)
The album sounds like it was made for Goldfrapp and their fans rather than a record made to please their record label.