Lambchop
FLOTUS


5.0
classic

Review

by DoofusWainwright USER (99 Reviews)
October 29th, 2016 | 383 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Justin Vernon Orders the Lambchop, Gets Served

Lambchop. As a band name it lands somewhere between the pointedly mundane and the knowingly absurd. It's a fitting title for an act that's always set itself apart from the herd (I doubt this band ever toyed with changing their name to 'The Lambchop' for instance) and one that clearly revelled in subversiveness. Frontman and chief songwriter Kurt Wagner has always made sure to keep a playfulness at the core of the band's approach, enjoying teasing his audience, and there's no let up in such shenanigans on 'FLOTUS'. This is Lambchop's twelfth full length album and it follows an extended hiatus in which time Wagner, along with fellow band mates Ryan Norris and Scott Martin, decamped to release an electronic flavoured album under the title HeCTA; clearly this side project served the function of testing ground as the reassembled Lambchop take more than a few cues from it. For a band so long in the tooth, one who've up to now been filed under the catch-all 'alt country/Americana' genre label, this is quite the radical departure.

In recent interviews Wagner has hinted at what was to come, claiming to have been bowled over by the increasingly free form approaches to song writing displayed by artists such as Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar. To his thinking this is the biggest change in musical production style he's witnessed since the 60s, and it's inspired a complete overhaul of the Lambchop sound. The majority of his vocals here are manipulated using a TC-Helicon Voicelive 2 Sampler and then married to intricate synthesised beats; together these two elements sit right at the top of the mix. The sound is fleshed out by a range of intuitively deployed colourful effects along with an array of piano lines which artfully blend into their surroundings, ranging from minimal chord progressions to frilly (if no less mild in tone) jazz.

As much as it's possible to hear the influence of contemporary production styles on this sound the end effect is still far removed from anything else being currently released, and the overall effect is both bizarrely antiquated and just plain old weird. This is electronic music that could conceivably have been released at any time in the last two decades, perhaps longer, and it carries the unshakable air of watching someone's grandpa tinkering in the garden shed with a new piece of technology. This should not be read as a criticism, rather it's a way of saying Wagner's fingerprints are all over 'FLOTUS'; this is, like many a Lambchop release before it, a mood piece at heart. For large chunks of the album song writing takes a back seat to the primary focus of building an all-enveloping atmosphere, the happy news being that the band apparently had little difficulty in delivering the intended intoxicating mood.

At times the music presented here starts to resemble a meditation tape, or perhaps sleep music; it blends, it glides, it flows like liquid. Periodically intriguing phrases or melodies will rise up from among the soothing mass of sound and pique the listener's interest, before slowly dissolving into the background once again. As a result it's difficult to pick 'FLOTUS' apart as it very much hangs together as a single piece; it's only after repeat listens that some particularly sublime moments start to emerge from the foggy whole. Many of these arrive late in the track list, buried within the delicious layering of 'NIV' or scattered across the sprawling multi part majesty of the 18 minute long 'The Hustle'. Elsewhere the 'none-more-typically-Lambchop' titled 'Directions to the Can' and 'Relatives #2' stand apart from their neighbours by skirting as close to conventionally catchy as the characteristic 'FLOTUS' style allows.

An experiment such as this can succeed in delivering exceptional songs and yet still fail the ultimate test; the music could end up sounding so unlike the band's previous output that the release settles as an outlier, a sore thumb in their discography. The danger here was that 'FLOTUS' would wind up feeling like a continuation of HeCTA as opposed to justifying the Lambchop tag. Where you have to give Wagner immense credit is this never threatens to transpire; despite the total reinvention of their sound this still bares the trademark Lambchop feel that is so utterly unique and instantly recognisable. This band have always been at their most impressive when channeling a very particular evocative atmosphere across an entire release, as proved by the successes of previous career high points 'Nixon', 'Is a Woman' and 'Mr M'. The surprising 'FLOTUS' deserves to be added to that illustrious list.



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user ratings (54)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Calling it - strangest album of the year (even makes the fortune cookie Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album sound conventional)



I'm saying it's strange as in 'good strange' but I'm predicting right now - many won't agree

Ryus
October 29th 2016


37291 Comments


sounds interesting

DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

http://www.npr.org/2016/10/27/499145153/first-listen-lambchop-flotus



Streaming here

StarlessCore
October 29th 2016


7807 Comments


nixon is dynamite

theBoneyKing
October 29th 2016


24516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn that was fast Doof, great job though per usual. Still loving Mr. M so will give this a listen soon (even though it sounds like it's extremely different). I did listen to NIV at one point and it didn't do a lot for me but I could see it growing and making more sense in the context of the full album.

DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Boney for an album like this I've anticipated a while the review is half written in my head after the first listen. Given it four repeat spins this morning - there's something about it that's already put its hooks in.



Saying that I really rate 'NIV' so this might not be your thing. The whole album is in the same style - although 'The Hustle' is the best song and drops a lot of the vocal effects and might be an entry point for you.

theBoneyKing
October 29th 2016


24516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'll just go for the immersion experience, after Mr. M and knowing how well you rate these guys I've already decided I'm going to be digging further into their discog.



(Also a minor correction: in paragraph 4 it should be "pique the listener's interest", not "peak". :-] )

DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You should definitely check 'Nixon' next, it's an instantly lovable listen, moreso than Mr. M.



Good spot too, shoddy stuff from a Contrib wtf ;D

theBoneyKing
October 29th 2016


24516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

No problem!



Perhaps I'll wait until the official release of this and try to squeeze Nixon in this week.

DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That's not my next rec though - that's an obvious essential!



Got a couple of ideas for recs that'll test the limits - probably not as much as this album come to think of it, this will test anyone's limits lol

StarlessCore
October 29th 2016


7807 Comments


i wish some of these indie bands got a bit more exposure on sput

feel like they used to back in the day when i first was getting into this stuff

DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah Starless, these bands are definitely part of the old guard and largely ignored - feel it's my duty to draw some attention to them here



This being electronic and supposedly forward looking you'd think might change that...but there's still something old fashioned and typically Lambchop going on in here that'll maybe put newcomers off

DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I like the little touches here, like singing the phrase 'Posterchild' (referencing the band's original name) in the opening song



'Relatives no. 2' is definitely a standout for me now

theBoneyKing
October 29th 2016


24516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"That's not my next rec though - that's an obvious essential!"



Of course not, I had no intention of taking it as such!

TwigTW
October 29th 2016


3938 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

FLOTUS = First Lambchop Of The United States?

DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

'For Love Often Turns Us Still' allegedly Twig

TwigTW
October 29th 2016


3938 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hard not to associate it with POTUS and SCOTUS, but maybe that's because I'm American . . . This sounds really good so far, but I'm only three songs in.

theBoneyKing
October 29th 2016


24516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I assumed the use of the FLOTUS acronym was intentional Twig

TheSpaceMan
October 29th 2016


13614 Comments


nice one dood

TwigTW
October 29th 2016


3938 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"...it carries the unshakable air of watching someone's grandpa tinkering in the garden shed with a new piece of technology."



lol, but yes. Sounds like he's listened to a few James Blake albums too.



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