Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rolling Off the Chaise Longue: Beangrowers' Not in a Million Lovers

Orignally from Malta but now Berlin-based, the trio Beangrowers, who have a continental European following, are releasing their fourth album, Not in a Million Lovers, in the UK soon; however, it is already available via the link to a German retailer on their Web site. I haven't heard their previous albums, so I'll be taking this album at face value and out of context; nonetheless, I highly enjoyed this record with its poppy bits and lounge feel - at its best points, it's like a rich amber that ensnares you in some viscous warmth. Vocalist Alison Galea has one of those sultry but sweet voices akin to Sarah Cracknell or Laetitia Sadier (some of my favourite tracks on this record remind me of Saint Etienne and Stereolab), so I prefer those tracks on the record that feature the softer, buoyant side of Galea's voice. Her vocals work most effectively on those tracks that allow for her voice to lounge about on a chaise longue rather than compete with the rhythm and pace - a natural unfolding rather than forced expression. There is a pervasive feeling of the illicit in both the lyrics and the music, where you can imagined heavy-lidded eyes and languorous limbs beckoning you to bohemian inclinations on a balmy morning.

Opening track Quaint Affair uses electronic elements to pulse beneath the surface of Galea's creamy vocals like a quickened heartbeat in a tilted neck. Untitled Forever is more urgent and choppy, but somehow the chorus still brings me back to the soaring beauty of Galea's voice without too much distraction. The title track is a stand-out track on the album with its insistent bassline and airy synths, combining with Galea's honeyed vocals to create a breezy come-hither atmosphere. Its video is also one of the more creative efforts I've seen in the world of music videos these days. One of my other favourite tracks on the record is Ours is a Small Flat, which takes string sounds and pairs them with Galea's voice as it lazily slides over the notes like a droplet bouncing and rolling from leaf to leaf. Captain Darling is a similarly lovely blend of tinkling keys and lackadaisical guitars while Galea appropriately sings "caress my soul when you go" in a sleepy sibilance. While others may have found the later track Like Ken a more throwaway album filler, I think it's quite a beautiful gem in line with Ours is a Small Flat and Captain Darling, but with a poppier rhythm and bubbly momentum, where Galea's voice coasts effortlessly over the waves of melody.

There are faster, rockier tunes like Love Can Do You No Harm, Available, Depths of Bavaria, and Good Band, Bad Name, which showcase jangly guitars and driving rhythms, but which tend to overshadow and compress Galea's vocal performance. Another track called Machine begins with promise of a rather heavy, dark mood and more of that rock feel, but when the vocals kick into higher registers, the song takes an ethereal turn into golden registers. The record ends with Life's a Bitch and Then She Sings in Your Band, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Waiting for the Man, but with a different vocal melody that actually works out in some strange counterpoint that softens the chunky feel of the original. It's a cheeky move in line with the title, and I actually quite like it.

I'm sufficiently intrigued to check out Beangrowers' back catalogue of three albums (I guess I've been out of some loop in the past), and I hope to hear more of the sound I loved on this record - the songs where music and voice fit together in some slowly unfurling wantonness.

Beangrowers MySpace:

Not in a Million Lovers - Beangrowers

Captain Darling - Beangrowers

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