Noisettes
Contact


2.5
average

Review

by kevinweeks USER (5 Reviews)
August 28th, 2012 | 2 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Venturing into uncharted waters, the Noisettes haven’t found their sea legs yet.

With their first two albums, The Noisettes fast tracked the same career path taken by so many indie rock success stories in recent memory: Release a jagged and raw debut; refine and polish sound for subsequent releases. Considering, however, that The Noisettes managed to capitalize on this formula with only two releases, where were they supposed to go next? Once you refine a raw substance to its purest form, what are your options? To continue this increasingly clumsy metaphor, Contact showcases The Noisettes experimenting with alloys, trying to fuse their signature sound with varying genres, yielding varying success.

Contact features synthesizers, drum machines, and other electronic staples prominently- elements which were largely absent from their sophomore effort, Wild Young Hearts, and entirely absent from their debut, What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?. In addition to the change in musical style, the band itself has changed. Drummer Jamie Morrison left the group in January 2010, leaving vocalist Shingai Shoniwa and Dan Smith to continue on as a duo. As such, it seems fitting that travel and adventure are recurring lyrical themes in the album.

Sadly though, the album feels less like an exploratory journey, and more like a montage of weekend getaways. The tracks range from a breezy Motown romp * la “Never Forget You” ("That Girl"), to an attempt at a radio and club friendly dance track ("Winner"), to a smoky electro-lounge ballad ("Travelling Light"), to a mandolin driven bluegrass track ("Ragtop Car"). Yes, you read that correctly- a mandolin driven bluegrass track. Apparently, during their musical exploration, Shoniwa and Smith decided to stop by Appalachia. The album as a whole is incredibly disjointed. The tonal shifts make listening to the album in one sitting a jarring experience. While the opening and closing tracks both feature full orchestras, the album in no way comes full circle. Instead, we are left with a collection of interesting songs that have no business being associated with each other.

The songs themselves are hit or miss, but trend towards forgettable. While an obvious successor to their last album, “That Girl” has neither the spunky soul of “Never Forget You,” nor the vibrant energy of “Wild Young Hearts.” “Winner,” the lead single from Contact, is hoping to recreate the chart success of “Don’t Upset the Rhythm,” with its pop sensibilities, but the end result is so safe that it’s boring. The title track “Contact,” “Travelling Light,” and shockingly enough “Ragtop Car” are the real stand out tracks on the album. Each track, while different, remembers what makes The Noisettes so special to begin with- Shingai Shoniwa. All three tracks place Shoniwa’s beautifully unique voice at the forefront of the songs.

“Contact” is a longing ballad with a full orchestra reminiscent of Etta James’s seminal “At Last.” “Travelling Light” starts bare, with a piano accompanying Shoniwa’s smoky, jazzy crooning. Synth subtly builds in the background until a crescendo turns this song into the lovechild of Billie Holiday and Jamie xx. Without a doubt, “Travelling Light” features the most natural integration of electronic elements into The Noisettes’ sound. And then theres the biggest “What the fuck?” moment I’ve had with a familiar band in a long time, “Ragtop Car.” It shouldn’t work. It’s awkwardly sandwiched in the middle of the album, and when they’ve never even done anything remotely country-adjacent, they release a mandolin driven track that is squarely within the field of bluegrass. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of Shoniwa’s sultry voice with an instrumental track Taylor Swift would kill for. Maybe it’s the genuine joy that permeates the track. It sounds like an intimate moment between two friends, not the product of a studio. Or maybe it just came from so far out of left field that I’m still in a state of shock. Whatever the case, it's a track I keep replaying, without losing interest.

While there are a few noteworthy tracks, the album as a whole lacks cohesion, and sounds much more like the band is simply messing around with ideas, rather than releasing serious music. Perhaps they lost more than they bargained for with Morrison’s departure. But whether or not that is the case, The Noisettes need to be much more critical of themselves the next time they want to try something new.


user ratings (3)
2.8
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
Anthracks
October 9th 2012


6923 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Loving this

Digging: Hooded Menace - The Tritonus Bell

RobotFrank
June 11th 2013


344 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I reviewed Wild Young Hearts and was really looking forward to this, paid a bit for the import at my local shop - and sadly regretted it. There were two songs on here I could really enjoy, and neither of them left me feeling all that satisfied or knowing I would have to listen to them again. The bad overall taste, combined with the same spotty feeling of What's the Time actually do damage to my current feelings about Wild Young Hearts. I worry "Every Now and Then" may be the only thing I will always hold in high regard.



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