Waiting for the Miracle
You have no idea how frustrating it’s been to listen to Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory for the last decade. They have never—never—been better than they were at the start of the 2000s. Heck, don’t even credit their first two albums; reserve all of your love for 2003’s electroclash classic Black Cherry. And undoubtedly, diversification is great , but Goldfrapp’s pastorals (Seventh Tree) are elastic and boring while other attempts to sharpen their hardest edges (Head First) come off stiff and stilted. Consider it a small miracle, then, that their sixth album Tales of Us deserves any more than just the time of day.
Most of the tracks on Tales of Us are first names, and the majority of those are female: It’s Allison Goldfrapp softly recounting tales inspired by, or told from, the point-of-view of other individuals (with this, we look longingly at our faded copy of Tori Amos’ Strange Little Girls). Sure, she’s always bordered on being mush-mouthed even in the duo’s danciest moments. Surrounded by music that applies the skillful chill of that Eurotrash to delicate character studies, for once she takes on a quality of mystery that would do Michael Stipe and Bjork proud. With it, songs like “Annabel” and “Thea” become not just poetic visual descriptions, but left field murder ballads once you make out the lyrics.
Gregory and Goldfrapp’s arrangements here suggest the low-key sounds of ladytronic contemporaries like Massive Attack and Cocteau Twins, but moreover they seem to want this to be their Leonard Cohen album. His earliest and most influential pieces, usually powered by acoustic guitar and timely orchestration, were plaintive tales of loves he missed, misappropriated, or lost outright. Work like “Jo,” “Simone,” and “Stranger” manages to move beyond messy melodrama into his realm of believable bohemianism. So while Tales of Us isn’t perfect or original, for once it makes Quiet Goldfrapp not feel like an early-morning post-club disaster.