Album Review: Goldfrapp – Headfirst

by Raffi Youssoufian on April 9, 2010

If Olivia Newton-John was one possible destination in Goldfrapp’s continuing journey that began on the steps of the majestic Felt Mountain, then it seems like she’s inching closer and closer to that point.  I might be panicking.  I might be overreacting.  Still in love with that first album, her subsequent records up to date, although dancier and poppier, still satisfied me in some way.  But her newest release, Headfirst, has me thinking a hot tub time machine might have been involved in the recording process somehow.

Goldfrapp and her partner Will Gregory always have had the ability to perfectly craft their envisioned sound.  And while taking steps forward in electro-pop on the previous few efforts, from the start of Headfirst, “Rocket” dives right into an eighties sound that almost sounds authentic.  From the classic synth chord riff, to the airy background noise, tight hollow kick and snare drums, and simple chorus lyrics of, “I gotta rocket, ooohhh you’re going on it, ooohhhh you’re never coming back,” you could throw this onto a radio station in 1983, and aside from the quality of the production, the seagull hairdo coolsters would be messing up their coifs while dancing on the ceiling.

The pattern continues to perfection with “Believer” and “Alive,” but it’s not until track four, in “Dreaming” where we get a taste of Goldfrapp from the Black Cherry and Supernature era, with a softer more broody building verse, which switches into a chorus that eerily falls into what sounds like unplanned tribute to the Eurythmics.  But it’s the moments of unadulterated emotion, when she really uses her beautiful voice that gives give me reason to stay.  No matter how dancy the songs get, it still stands out.

One of two misfits on the album, “Hunt,” could easily have been a track left on an earlier album, and is my favorite.  Almost a modern/eighties hybrid, the emotion in her breathy heartfelt vocal is almost amplified with a repeat breath track, as the rest of instruments envelop you.

Only giving you one intermission, she jumps right back onto the dance floor.  “I Wanna Life,” is probably right there with “Rocket” as the two poppiest sing-along throw backs.  I’m entirely convinced the chorus sounds like what would come out of a super computer if you asked it to give you the perfect eighties chorus.

The album ends with the second misfit, a strange, but not entirely bizarre instrumental vocalization song, not too far from her two vocal tracks on Felt Mountain.  It reminds you how versatile and amazing Goldfrapp’s voice really is.

I should say I’m not entirely trashing this sound.  If you’re looking for a rocking dancy eighties poppy sound, you’re going to like this album.  If you were hoping for some departure or a return to previous days, like I was, you’re going to be disappointed.  Regardless of the music, Alison Goldfrapp really has one of the most stunning voices I’ve heard.  In some small way it almost feels wasted when she’s not using it the way she can, which does depress me a bit.  But her voice and vocal melody is what makes this album for me.  If almost anyone else had done these songs, they probably would have sounded a bit more generic.  And really, generic 80’s music? Like you know, who really wants that?

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