CD Head First [Goldfrapp] (CD 6300841),
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Head First [Goldfrapp]
5. Head First
7. Shiny and Warm
8. I Wanna Life
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 9442
Goldfrapp; Bruno Ellingham
Audio Mixer: Mark "Spike" Stent.
Goldfrapp stepped off the dancefloor with The Seventh Tree's folky reveries, but the duo couldn't stay away for long. Head First dives into luscious, eminently danceable synth pop that'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 more prescient 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 listeners serious dj 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 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, late-night glamour to it. As almost Goldfrapp album 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. ~ Heather Phares
Spin (p.87) - "[T]he gorgeous minimalist closer 'Voicething' -- built from carefully stacked layers of Alison's own breathy coo -- has no modern pop equivalent."
Entertainment Weekly (p.71) - "U.K. duo Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory return to the dance floor with nine tracks of glitter-strewn glam pop." -- Grade: B
CMJ - "The album opens with the Van Halen-like 'Rocket,' then goes into a breezy twirl on 'Believer.'"
Paste (magazine) (p.61) - "HEAD FIRST evokes an era as much as a sound, offering instant gratification with bubbly hooks, nimble arrangements and relentlessly stylized production."
Pitchfork (Website) - "With sunny Van Halen synth tones, XANADU-era Olivia Newton John optimism, and galloping Giorgio Moroder basslines..."
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Dance & Electronic
Mute US 9442
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