Review Summary: Introducing: Disney Dream Pop
What makes an album memorable? While there’s an enormous variety of potential answers to that particular question, ranging from ‘cohesive songwriting’ to ‘pretty cover art’, my first thought, unsurprisingly, centers around ‘good music’. Yet, is this truly the case? Wouldn’t a painfully terrible collection of songs be just as (if not all the more) memorable than yet another merely ‘good’ one? It appears that for every such potential answer a direct inverse appears equally applicable: overwhelmingly messy musicianship or repulsive album covers are just as capable of lending an album its memorable qualities.
This brings us to Crystal Ball
, the debut album by Australian artist Woodes. The album is memorable for two primary reasons, yet, as positive as they are at first glance, both feel like back-handed compliments. Firstly, throughout its 35-minute runtime, the record fully nails its aesthetics. Elle Graham, the mastermind behind Woodes, seems to aim for a style that can only be described as Disney Dream Pop™, with the soundtrack-esque bombastic-yet-soothing approach to songwriting consistently painting a unique, pleasant soundscape. However, in spite of extensively exploring this relatively uncharted territory, the artist’s songwriting does not consistently match these aesthetic heights required to make for a fully immersive experience. ‘Close’, its quips and quirks notwithstanding, appears to borrow a suspicious amount of its chorus melody from... Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, of all songs. Likewise, ‘Queen of the Night’ adopts a little too much from Lorde’s ‘Homemade Dynamite’ in the vocal department. As a direct result of this, Crystal Ball
ends up, somewhat paradoxically, lacking a clear identity in spite of its unique style and vision.
Secondly, Woodes’ music renders itself highly memorable through its relentlessly catchy melodies. The opening trio of tracks demonstrates this gleefully through a set of highly infectious choruses, with lead single ‘How Long I’d Wait’ being one of the year’s most deliciously cheesy anthems. Similarly, the aptly titled ‘Euphoria’ is a wonderful display of Graham’s vocals consistently and impressively treading the fine line between dreamy and grandiose, detracting from neither the song’s danceable qualities nor its more ethereal tendencies. Yet, as excellent as some of these tracks are, the album as a whole appears to float from catchy chorus to catchy chorus, with little but merely pleasantly aesthetic fluff filling the gaps in between. While this is not a massive problem - a carefree mindset is imperative for fully enjoying the record - it is easy to imagine how much better the likes of ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Distant Places’ could have been with slightly more appealing verses to compliment their massive choruses. This, in turn, makes for an album full of excellent moments, yet somewhat lacking in substance as a full body of work.
Although each positive aspect of Crystal Ball
seems to be followed by a ‘but…’, the album is an undoubtedly good time. If anything, its relative lack of personality within a highly unique shell presents a world of potential and opportunities for Woodes’ future projects. Nonetheless, escaping to this picturesque world of Disney Dream Pop is an undeniably pleasant and memorable experience, if primarily for the experience
more so than the actual songs.