Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have binned 2010’s relentless dated neon suited pop of Head First (sorry if you loved it) for this utterly gorgeous, melancholy anthology of betrayal, confusion, death, forbidden love, infidelity, everything that suits the vocals of the beautifully intense Alison. So far, ‘Annabel’ and ‘Drew’ have been visually interpreted with the wonderfully mysterious and artistic insight of Lisa Gunning in the videos that could be construed as film shorts.
Here is ‘Annabel’, a tale put to music inspired by the book of the same name by Kathleen Winter. A child who is born not obviously male or female and whose parents decide to bring him up as a boy, yet he wonders and dreams of being the other, Annabel, as growing up with the female within is never quite suppressed. The music and accompanying film are moving and sensitive in its secrecy.
I adore each and every one in this collection of stories charged with the human condition, and that’s the beauty of this album, it doesn’t feel as if you’re merely listening to music but while deciphering Alison’s vocals, a tale unwinds at the forefront of simple guitar, breathlessly dark, sexy, desperate vocals and frequent big orchestration that booms a soundscape of vast passion.
Tales of Us is not one to put on before a night out; its bedroom music, music for a late night into the early hours, a downplay revel in the darkness of its pop noir. If you can’t slow down for this kind of dreaminess, then you may accuse it of monotony in its gentle flow from movement to still. Your loss if this is the case as I find its calm energy takes me way off in to a little world of vital moments of contemplation, essential every now and then. If you lose yourself in the tranquillity, you can always antidote with some ‘Lovely Head’ or ‘Ooh la la’.
It works best in a listening capacity for me as a complete album, the tracks weaving seductively together, perfectly placed in this indulgent treat for those that have loved Goldfrapp’s other offerings, most notably Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree. The Tales of Us track list is a first person narrative of familiarity, 'Jo', 'Annabel', 'Ulla', 'Alvar', 'Thea', 'Simone', 'Laurel', 'Clay', 'Drew', breaking that for the more distant but heavily emotive ‘Stranger’. It does in places emulate the ethereal realms of Bat For Lashes, particularly 'Thea', which is the only one with a distinct beat dominating the track. Tales of Us is unashamedly dabbling in murderous dark pop leaning creatively towards a Lynch inspirited Twin Peaks sleepover (et el).