Music Review: Goldfrapp, ‘Seventh Tree’

Music Review: Goldfrapp, ‘Seventh Tree’

The latest album from the electronic duo is a sonic departure from their commercial breakthrough, Supernature, but is brilliant nonetheless

Aside from stray thoughts on how frontwoman Alison Goldfrapp looks like an Olsen twin on the cover of Seventh Tree, you have to wonder, really, how much did Goldfrapp resent the success of Supernature?

Gone are the grinding synths, pulsating disco-beats and radio-friendly melodies of that commercial-breakthrough record, replaced in Seventh Tree with gently plucked guitars, orchestral arrangements and meandering songwriting.

Knowingly, Seventh Tree opens with its quietest track, the elegiac and biting “Clowns,” in which Alison sings with her trademark pout: “Only clowns will play with those balloons/What d’ya want to look like Barbie for?” As an opening statement, “Clowns” is spot on and prepares you for the downtempo journey ahead. The following tracks, including “Little Bird” (whose haunting “July-lie-lie” chorus will give you shivers) and “Happiness,” pick up the tempo slightly, but the record only starts to let loose in the last thirds.

Everything before the last quartet of songs is like a warm-up of sorts. “A&E,” “Cologne Cerrone Houdini,” “Caravan Girl” and “Monster Love” are sublime pop payoffs for those who stuck with Seventh Tree‘s earlier parts. If “Clowns” is like the first, bleak hours of morning, “Monster Love,” is like the first warm burst of sunlight through a window, signalling the start of a new day.

It’s all brilliant and if Seventh Tree is an aural F-U to Supernature — and an F-U to the many acts who co-opted their sound — it’s an achievement in its own right. As the album ends, you almost want to hear Alison Goldfrapp cackling, “Top that!”

It’s unlikely anyone will this year.