released Mar 23rd, 2010

from the album - Rocket

from all music

Bath, England's singer/composer/keyboardist Allison Goldfrapp began exploring music as part of her studies as a fine art painting major at Middlesex University, mixing sound, visuals, and performances in her installation pieces. While she was still in college, she appeared on her friend Tricky's 1995 debut, Maxinquaye, which led to appearances on albums from other cutting-edge electronic artists, including Orbital's Snivilisation and Add N to X's Avant Hard. By the late '90s, Goldfrapp began honing her own compositions; one of her friends passed some of her demos on to composer Will Gregory. Finding much in common in their musical tastes and approaches, the duo took Allison's surname as the name for their collaboration. After signing to Mute in 1999, Goldfrapp delivered their debut album, Felt Mountain, in fall 2000. Felt Mountain went on to nearly universal acclaim and spawned several singles, including the Utopia Genetically Enriched EP, which arrived in early 2001. After spending most of that year touring, Goldfrapp spent most of 2002 recording and returned with Black Cherry in spring 2003. The "Ooh La La" single and the full-length Supernature, both of which continued the disco and glam rock influences of the duo's previous album, were released in 2005, while 2008's The Seventh Tree moved in a calmer, more acoustic-based, but just as sonically lush direction. In 2009, the group released its score to Sam Taylor-Wood's film about John Lennon as a youth, Nowhere Boy, which they recorded with a full orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. The smoothly poppy Head First, led by the Italo-disco-inspired "Rocket," arrived in March 2010.

album review

Even though Goldfrapp stepped off the dancefloor with The Seventh Tree’s folky reveries, the duo couldn’t stay away for long. Head First dives head first into luscious, eminently danceable synth pop, but it’s almost as far removed from the sleek shuffle beats of Black Cherry and Supernature as their previous album was. This time, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory look to the ‘80s for inspiration, but not the brittle sound that was fashionable to ape in the late 2000s, like La Roux and Little Boots. Instead, they explore the uber-glossy productions, staccato melodies, and dramatic key shifts that were the hallmarks of anthems that some might not want to admit they liked decades later. The influence of Giorgio Moroder and Italo-disco in general can be heard throughout Head First, but ABBA and especially Xanadu-era Olivia Newton-John are even more prominent (the cover of “Physical” that appeared between Felt Mountain and Black Cherry feels less ironic with each album Goldfrapp releases). The pair makes more of these sounds than just pastiche, although the finesse with which they re-create this distinctive sound will give some listeners serious déjà vu. Even the album’s length and structure feel retro: Head First is a svelte nine songs long, with the singles on its A-side and ballads on the B-side. And the singles — particularly the first three — are some of Goldfrapp’s most irresistible songs yet: “Rocket”’s driving minor-key verses and huge, shimmering choruses tap into the brain’s pleasure center as efficiently as possible; “Believer” sounds instantly familiar, but not tired or obvious; and “Alive” channels ABBA with percolating guitars, warm keyboards and synths that sparkle like falling stars or a shower of glitter. These songs have a sugar rush-immediacy that is new to Goldfrapp’s music, even if it nods to a golden age of pop that was unabashedly joyous. These songs are so mainstream, they’re almost subversive; while Goldfrapp is no stranger to catchy singles, the brooding undercurrents that appeared in all of the duo's previous albums are missing. Song titles like “I Wanna Life” hint at the big, brightly colored strokes the duo is painting with this time, and the title track’s rainbow brightness and romantic ideals are miles away from the dark sensuality of their earlier work — only “Shiny and Warm,” which plays like a revamped “Satin Chic,” has any trace of that vibe. Even Head First’s moody songs aren’t as moody as before, though “Hunt” has a hazy, dead-of-night glamour to it. These changes might disappoint some fans, but as almost every album Goldfrapp has released shows, the duo is unafraid of abandoning sounds that worked for them in favor of something else. Coupled with The Seventh Tree, this album proves that Goldfrapp’s skill at adopting and fully embodying different styles is what makes them distinctive, not necessarily one signature sound. If the album seems somewhat slight, it’s purposefully so: Head First is a love letter to the frothy, fleeting, but very vital joys of pop music.

Track Listing

1."Rocket" – 3:51
2."Believer" – 3:43
3."Alive" – 3:28
4."Dreaming" – 5:07
5."Head First" – 4:30
6."Hunt" – 4:34
7."Shiny and Warm" – 3:58
8."I Wanna Life" – 4:13
9."Voicething" – 4:44