A welcomed flood
Gruff Rhys is the frontman of the band Super Furry Animals but is continuing his solo career with his fifth album, Babelsberg. The title of the album originates from a sign of a single word that Rhys passed by while on tour in 2014. It immediately caught his interest, and he made note of it. When attempting to think of a title for the (at the time) unnamed work, Rhys came back to the word that he wrote down, Babelsberg, and everything fell into place.
Each second of this album stands out for two big reasons: Rhys’ vocals and the 72-piece National Orchestra of Wales that backs up Rhys. The album kicks off with “Frontier Man” as Rhys sings, “On the frontier of delusion, I’m your foremost frontier man.” His voice is deep and rich, and the tune is playfully triumphant. The orchestra can be heard throughout the song but doesn’t overpower anything. “Oh Dear!” continues the whimsical vibe with a quick paced tempo that is impossible to listen to without at least tapping your feet.
“Limited Edition Heart” is beautiful and full of character, beginning with a collection of string instruments waltzing through the heavy drum. “Take That Call” changes things up, and features a haunting intro before a ‘60s influenced tune kicks in as Rhys sings, “Take a minute, take a moment… take that call,” with the help of delicate female harmonizing vocals. Rhys tests the higher end of his register on “Negative Vibes.” This track challenges the orchestra and big band sound heard on the rest of the album, and overall, sounds very organic and simple in comparison. The uplifting beat pairs with Rhys singing, “You and I can conquer all the negative vibes / And get on with our lives together,” during the chorus. “Selfies in the Sunset” closes off the album as Rhys duets with singer Lily Cole. Her voice is gentle but still holds its own against Rhys’ raw vocals throughout the dreamy soft rock, folk anthem.
From his band, solo career, film scores and collaborations with other artists, Rhys is clearly a well-rounded musical talent, and this album is no exception. Each song on Babelsberg is filled to the brim with infectious beats and tunes and is fully developed thanks to the large orchestra, which adds oceans of depth to the album.