Review Summary: The dynamic duo of Imogen Heap and Guy Sigsworth created one of the best-produced albums of 2002. A must have for any electronic music fan.
The year is 2002. In a virtual dream team or supergroup of sorts, vocalist Imogen Heap joins up with legendary producer Guy Sigsworth (Bjork) to create an album that would breach traditional electronica boundaries and forge their own unique sound. Though the album is met with critical acclaim, it doesn't quite make a huge splash in the U.S. market.
Fast forward to 2004, the year of Zach Braff's incredible cinematic experience, Garden State.
Audiences were left scratching their heads as to who sang that marvelous song at the end of the movie, only to discover that the song "Let Go" belonged to the group Frou Frou.
No doubt this is the story of many Frou Frou fans, myself included.
I'm not going to shake my snobby fist and say that I bought this album as soon as it was released. No, I'll admit, it was the track "Let Go" from Garden State.
Fittingly, the album kicks off with the very single which attracted me to the group in the first place. Lush electronic strings complement the textured, breathy vocals signature to Imogen. This is a slightly dark exploration for Frou Frou, but still one of my all-time favorite tracks.
The lyrics range from short, memorable hooks to conversational rhetorical questions, such as "Can't you see that all this stuff's a side show?"
The next track feels slightly brighter, at more of a steady walking tempo. This is an excellent example of the production elements that Sigsworth brings to the table; the bass in this song is skillfully crafted. Also, there are some excellent background vocal pannings, successfully adding to the atmospheric tone. A slightly poppier single, but it does not compromise the production one bit.
<B>It's Good To Be In Love</B>
Following in the same vein as the previous track, this song is more sugar-coated, especially evident in the central sing-songy chorus. It still has some cool percussion effects and actually reminded me of Fiona Apple at some points. Still, I felt this song didn't unlock the full potential of Frou Frou.
<B>Must Be Dreaming</B>
A departure from the candy of the previous two tracks, complete with well-placed static riffs, harps, and illustrious background vocals. It's on songs like this where Frou Frou shines.
There's an excellent mood to this song, encouraged by gong-like bell tones and a swooping bass lick. Yes, I recognize it's a slower song and not as accessible as some of Frou Frou's other tracks, but the feelings created through this song give me chills.
My only complaint is that it's a tad lengthy and repetitious for 5:33.
<B>Only Got One</B>
The general underlying beat of this song seems like it could fit in with The Books, because it's filled with reversed sound bytes. It's a very interesting change, and shows the versatility of both Imogen and Guy, especially in the gorgeous flutes, pianos, and relaxing acoustic guitars throughout the piece.
Hands down, this is one of my favorite tracks on the record. There's just something about those keys that just make them almost edible, if that were possible. It's warm, fresh sounding, and energetic. Though it's 5:34, it doesn't feel inflated at the least. The breakdown where all the instruments cut out except Imogen cooing, "I feel good all over" is heart-melting and absolutely stunning.
<B>Hear Me Out</B>
In and of itself, it's not a bad cut. Unfortunately, it doesn't bring anything new to the table, and seems to be a less-than-stunning rehash of "It's Good To Be In Love".
I still don't hit the skip button, but it's not a track I would pick out to listen to by itself.
Again, this song seems to be lacking something fresh that was so abundant in the previous recordings. It still bothers me that the intro features Imogen singing a basic descending scale with a keyboard. I would recommend skipping this track.
This is where the album starts to pick up again. Along with the tempo, Frou Frou seems to pick up the creative juices once more, using Chinese-like lead synth fills in the breaks of the chorus.
Still not a highlight, but better than its predecessor.
<B>The Dumbing Down Of Love</B>
The final song is stripped down, featuring light piano, ambient bass warbles, and quiet strings to focus on the incredible lyrics of this song. Towards the end, Imogen utters one of my all-time favorite quotes: "Music is worthless unless it can make a complete stranger break down and cry."
Excellent. Of all the Frou Frou songs, this one most resembles a Bjork song, as far as the structure and vocals.
This album features top-notch production, stunning vocals and lyrics, and creative electronic beats. Even though it gets slow in the middle, it is more than worth it to buy the whole album, especially if you are a fan of electronic music.