Laetitia Sadier - Something Shines

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2014-09-22

Since Stereolab’s self-imposed exile has kept them out of earshot for the past five years, fans have flocked to singer Sadier’s solo releases as a sort of stopgap to relieve their jonesin’ for electro-krautrockin’ pop. Her third album will not disappoint, especially if you prefer the more avant garde trappings of the ‘lab. ‘Quantum Soup’ opens with seven minutes of trickling synths, sound effects, the occasional wordless/French vocal, backwards guitars, keys, and a soupcon (eg, soup’s on) of weird, spooky shit that’ll start the head scratching right off the bat.

Luckily, we’re not spending the entire album in this nebulous no-man’s-land, as ‘Then, I Will Love You Again’ strums out the guitars and chugs along in fine ‘lab fashion with a nice little brass explosion at the end. Sadier’s deep, Nico-styled vocals are at the heart of the syncopated, slightly out-of-focus ‘The Milk of Human Tenderness’, which, despite a pleasantly cinematic string accompaniment, never quite takes hold. It sounds like about six separate songs strung together and the whole is certainly less than the sum of these disjointed parts.

I did enjoy the Ennio Morriconi-ish intro to ‘The Scene of the Lie’, but Sadier’s vocals over-enunciate the lyrics, drawing each word out to unintelligible lengths, which kills any chance of following the plot. The cinematic expanse of the instrumental passages might work better with visuals and, with the little spoken word interlude delivered in French, you’re at a loss if you’re not bilingual.

Still, the musical segments throughout are on par with the groovy, sexy De Wolfe library albums that formed the backdrop of many a swinging 60s film (‘Release From the Centre of Your Heart’ would’ve worked perfectly in one of Godard’s nouvelle vague films, while the floating ‘Butter Side Up’ is a warm and inviting soundtrack for a lazy afternoon daydream, at least until the soulful strutting interrupts our reverie about halfway through). And ‘Echo Port’ reminds me a little of Mia Farrow’s ‘Lullabye’ from Rosemary’s Baby!

On most Stereolab albums, the music was more inviting than the vocal accompaniment and, with a few exceptions, the same holds true here. Sadier’s not the most gifted vocalist – she occasionally drifts off-key and tends to speak her lyrics rather than sing them (eg, ‘Transhumance’) – and this tends to disrupt the tunes to the point of rendering them confusing and difficult to follow/enjoy. Great musical interludes, though, if you’re in the mood for slightly askew, syncopated rhythms. They had my mind drifting towards more than a few Residents albums.    

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