Feb 272008
Authors: Nick Scheidies

Intro: After finding success in the realm of synth-pop and dance with their last two albums, British duo Goldfrapp have taken their traditionally electronic music in a surprisingly folksy direction with “Seventh Tree.” But can they trade synthesizers for acoustic guitars, pianos and actual drum kits without losing their Midas touch?

Pros: In short, yes, they can. Change instruments though they may, Goldfrapp still features the engaging – if more demur than ever – voice of lead singer Alison Goldfrapp. She chirps and croons ethereally over the warmly ambient and decidedly down tempo arrangements of “Seventh Tree,” which manage to be soothing and yet unerringly catchy.

Cons: There’s nothing wrong with making a relaxing record, but the 10 tracks on “Seventh Tree” are all almost identical in length, sound and tempo. The album is simply begging for a little variety.

Meanwhile, the lyrics are often incoherent and when you can actually understand them they usually underwhelm, though there are exceptions.

Definitive Track: For instance, the imminently likeable “Happiness” features a bopping piano, a persistent backbeat and an infectious chorus along with cheery backup vocals. But the true brilliance of the song rests in the way these gleeful sonic trappings disguise its sinister lyrical content: “we can see your troubled soul / give us all your money / we’ll make it better.”

Conclusion: On “Caravan Girl” Goldfrapp expresses a desire to “run away and bring it all back.” In many ways, the duo has achieved just that. With “Seventh Tree,” they’ve abandoned their comfortable niche, in favor of a more intimate aesthetic. But in doing so, Goldfrapp has brought a transcendent, haunting beauty to their music.

Staff writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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