I have always been the sort of person who should like Goldfrapp. I
love bands with female vocalists, and I really groove in the place where
indie, pop, and electronica meet. But for some reason, I could never
quite latch on to Goldfrapp’s sound. Something about their albums just
didn’t do it for me, and I could never put my finger on it.
When they released their long-awaited Seventh Tree earlier
this year, I was initially as unimpressed as I had been with their
previous efforts. I thought the songs ranged from the trite to the
downright boring, and the production seemed lackluster overall. I
listened to all the previews and excerpts I could find, and quickly came
to the decision not to buy the album.
Then, a few months later, one of my close friends was gushing about how great Seventh Tree
was. I made a face and explained to her that I gave it a shot, but it
just wasn’t for me. She lent me her copy and said, “Please, give it
So I did, and I made more of an effort to see past my earlier snap judgments.
I was shocked at how different the album seemed after having given it
some distance. I actually recalled some of the tunes and lyrics, which
indicated to me that these songs were more memorable than I’d given
them credit for. The rhythms were perfect for relaxing on a Sunday, or
for energizing an afternoon drive.
Melodies that earlier had seemed
cheesy, suddenly came across as charming.
To say that this album is a grower would be an understatement. I now
realize that this is part of the Goldfrapp mystique — the songs might
seem obvious at first, but they aren’t. Catchy melodies, rather than
posing as a stand-in for substance, are actually a foundation for rich
harmonies and thoughtful lyrics. There’s definitely more to this album
than meets the eye, and after the first couple of listens I found myself
actually having favorites that I wanted to hear again and again.
There’s a dry humor to this music that I missed on the first try, but
as I became more familiar with the songs it became more and more
apparent. Alison Goldfrapp has a way of weaving vocals that belies the
meaning beneath them. It’s a clever trick, one that appeals to casual
pop listeners on the surface but also to more serious song analysts upon
repeat listenings. These tracks are anything but simple, and I feel
silly for not having noticed it before.
As you can imagine, I ended up buying my own copy of the disc. I still wouldn’t say that Seventh Tree
is the most engaging or intelligent album I’ve come across this year,
but it certainly has a magnetic quality that grows over time. Alison’s
vocals, combined with relentlessly catchy tunes and wondrous stories,
make this album one to listen to again and again. If you listen to it
and think you don’t like it, try putting it away for a while. Come back
to it later, and see if anything has changed. It might pleasantly