Review Summary: The greatest soundtrack to a horror movie that never existed.
Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory of the band Goldfrapp are a true definition of modern musical chameleons. Each one of their current five albums have their own sound, while never entirely abandoning Alison's bold sexuality that she expresses carefully and beautifully in the band's music. this is very much unlike many other pop musicians (using that word loosely) that only use sexually blunt lyrics to attract fans and attention; disco stick anyone?
From the glam rock synthesizers on Black Cherry, the dance heavy Supernature, the beautiful acoustic work on Seventh Tree, and the 80's throwback that is Head First, Goldfrapp has pretty much been very pop and upbeat for the majority of their career, that is excluding their most overlooked album, their debut, Felt Mountain.
Felt Mountain contains pop elements but is by far the most experimental thing they have done, totally embracing Portishead-like trip hop and lush sounds of horror movie soundtrack suspense. Opening with the haunting whistles of "Lovely Head," the subtle strings and downbeat of the song flow neatly over the random intermissions of a strange vocal noise. While a great introduction for what is to come, the album only goes higher with "Paper Bag." The song utilizes the gentle strums of a guitar over more strings and a quiet drum roll while Alison sings lines like, "Brown paper bag, makes for a hat," and "No time to ***." The duo of great consecutive songs is made a trilogy when the slightly more lively, "Human" breaks in with its louder, more theatric sounds.
While the album does not have any bad songs by any means, it tends to hit a bit of a lull though in the center section where songs like "Pilots" and "Deer Stop" start to mesh together. The latter track, sounding so ridiculously similar to a Portishead song that the line between barrowing a sound to completely ripping off another band gets a little blurry. Despite this, the album redeems itself with the final three songs, starting with the instrumental, "Oompa Radar," a song that sounds straight out of some demented circus, adding to the already well-played horror movie vibe. This is followed by the highlight of the album, and one of Goldfrapp's best songs, "Utopia," where Alison sings of a Vonnegut-style world of perfection over another layer of her strong vocals yodeling into the microphone. Following this is the album's closing song, "Horse Tears," a song that could easily pass for a 50's ballad or the ending to an old style horror movie where the surviving character has faced the killer and won, despite everyone she knows already dying at his hands, leaving her utterly alone in the most bittersweet way.