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.
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.
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 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 4 December 2015
This is a wonderful album, finally: something on par with Felt Mountain. The middle albums weren't for me. (Seventh Tree was a brief respite.)
Alison has a beautiful voice and, considering her wide range of albums, can obviously use it however she likes. I like the more experimental instrumentals and purity of Felt Mountain, these qualities are present on Tales of Us. Playing Felt Mountain again it's amazing how accomplished it is regardless of whether it's a first album.
I couldn't say that Tales of Us is stronger than Felt Mountain (as FM reaches its pinnacle perfectly). Tales of Us is perhaps more cohesive and 'more mature' (but 'mature' can be such an immature term regarding music).
Goldfrapp are also great live. When Alvar was played, the strings got more and more pronounced - a frenzy, almost anarchic with their twists; the beauty always keeping them in control. Such contrast in power and beauty is amazing to achieve, fantastic to hear. Yet this happens often on Felt Mountain and Tales of Us. Another track, also great live is Thea, the percussion is loud like constant punches, but Alison's voice, pure, isn't fragile and demands more attention than the drum.
(Felt Mountain still offers the more rarified of aria. . . )
on 9 September 2013
I say buy it in Autumn for the same reason I believe that Seventh Tree should also be purchased in Autumn- the perfect season for this album, and will become synonymous with the time of year. However, whereas Seventh Tree is ideal listening for strolling through the autumn foliage in the countryside on a clear autumn day, Tales of Us is very much late-night listening.
Now, Goldfrapp are my favourite band, without a doubt. All six of their albums are works of genius, and the fact that S.T. is my favourite with Head First right behind it shows that I love both their synth-heavy pop brilliance and also their folkier and more acoustic side equally.
Tales of Us is certainly their saddest album to date in terms of lyrics and music; however, that makes it none the less beautiful.
Goldfrapp's lyrics on Tales Of Us are without a doubt her most mature and sophisticated to date. Songs such as Jo and Laurel are beautifully scripted and each song has a wonderful narrative- perhaps because each track is named after a person, with the exception of Stranger, therefore telling a story.
There are happy moments on the album, such as with Drew and Clay, but there is a definite eeriness that runs through Tales of Us, punctuated my sheer moments of chilling instrumentation that will give you goosebumps.
With each album Goldfrapp make, they will gain and lose fans. And indeed, fans that tuned out for Seventh Tree after getting into them during the Black Cherry/Supernature era and then welcomed Head First in 2010, will, no doubt, be giving this one a miss and will wait for Frapp's next pop offering.
Similarly, original fans of the Felt Mountain era will think that their prayers have been answered with Tales of Us.
Stand-out tracks for me are:
Jo- for me, the saddest but possibly the most moving of the songs, which deals with heartbreak, loneliness and moving on (my interpretation)
Alvar- The shrill acoustic guitar in this song will send shivers down your spine no matter how many times you hear it, as will Alison's equally shrill and high warbles.
Thea- again, Alison's shrill and panting vocals give me the chills, as does the violent, drum-led chorus.
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.
on 17 October 2014
One of my favourite albums for this genre and this is as good as their first album. I hope they do more good stuff like this. They use different sounds and styles from different eras of the last few decades. Perfectly arranged, finely crafted songs. It is sensual, romantic, and beautifully melancholic. I think it is top class music for people with taste and musical inclination.
on 16 January 2014
I'm new to Goldfrapp, indeed hadn't really even heard of them before and bought this cd on impulse as it was in my Amazon Recommendations and, having read the other reviews, it seemed worth a gamble. I've loved it almost from the first single note and continue to love it after many plays. It goes against the tenor of everyday life in such a haunting yet beautiful way. For anyone else there new to Goldfrapp and wondering whether to take the plunge, I can't recommend this highly enough.