After a bit more than a decade of existence and five albums of original material, it seemed fitting that rural-meets-modernist British duo Goldfrapp proposed us a career retrospective last month, aptly titled The Singles. Without fanfare, they've accompanied this collection with the "Melancholy Sky" single and twirling non-album exclusive "Yellow Halo," two pieces of moderately noncommittal chamber pop that are, truth be told, among the duo's most lukewarm offerings. That said, these shouldn't detract anyone from the fact the twelve singles that preceded them rank next to the synth pop genre's best. No wonder they have found a welcoming terrain of expression on indie imprint par excellence Mute, the inventors—or at least guardians—of the genre. Goldfrapp have now come to exemplify it too with sultry poise and prominent dexterity.
The main thing that strikes you is how well the material on offer here has aged. Their slower, stage-managed songs ("Lovely Head" and "Utopia" namely) from the Felt Mountain era have an undeniably timeless quality. In the early '00s Goldfrapp felt like an eccentric bird; only their live favorite cover version of Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" hinted at something more groovy and, even more importantly, lighthearted and fun. They fully developed these intuitions on their two subsequent albums at the height of the electroclash craze, yet those sexily sanguine songs are still as immediate and enduring: "Ooh La La" with its panache and overall glam, "Number 1," "Strict Machine," "Train," and especially the glorious "Ride a White Horse" with their commanding display of an innate sense for melodies and attention to sonic details. Here they also come in re-mastered form, the supplemental attention to background arrangements only nurturing the songs' initial prismatic glow.
Next to these electro pop nuggets, "A&E" and its distant "Happiness" cousin (from the 2008, underrated Seventh Tree long-player) almost come across as perverse in their dedication to gentle acoustic strumming, but they're also a testament to the duo's versatility.
Personally, I would have preferred the inclusion of psychedelic-lite single "Caravan" instead of cavernous ballad "Black Cherry," but others could pointlessly weep over the absence of "Twist" or "Alive" as well. What's mainly to remember here is how Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory both helped set the table for the likes of Florence and The Machine, Marina and The Diamonds and La Roux through their sultry take on electronic disco and baroque pop. Even Lana Del Rey's self-fabricated glitzy maneuverers have some of their origins in Alison's alluring posturing. The songs reunited on The Singles should be celebrated by anyone fascinated by the UK's long tradition of tuneful eccentrics.
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Tracklist: Goldfrapp - The Singles 01. Ooh La La
02. Number 1
03. Strict Machine
04. Lovely Head
09. Ride A White Horse
12. Black Cherry
13. Yellow Halo
14. Melancholy Sky
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