Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 19: Goldfrapp, "Lovely Head"

Artist: Goldfrapp
Song: "Lovely Head"
Album: Felt Mountain
Year: 2000

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Though it rarely makes it anywhere near the so-called "mainstream" public, when an artist finds a way to mix in truly artful sounds and styles into their music, the results often completely defy description.  While it is certainly open to interpretation as to "how much" of the art-side of things are necessary to make it "more than just music," there are a few artists where the way in which they create their music is so far beyond "just music" that it cannot be denied.  It is this exact idea that can be heard in the vast, magnificent musical landscapes and vocal sounds of the unparalleled English duo, Goldfrapp, and more than a decade into their career, their sound still knows no equal.  The pairing of producer and multi-instrumentalist Will Gregory with the Earth-shaking, captivating voice of Allison Goldfrapp has proven to be one of the most innovative and almost magical pairings in history, and one can argue that the two were at their finest when they created their 2000 masterpiece of a debut, Felt Mountain.  Deploying far reaching, complex musical arrangements, alongside the soaring voice of Goldfrapp herself, the record stands as one of the most uniquely brilliant efforts of the entire decade, and the album manages to rise above a description of ambient or electronica.  Every song on Felt Mountain is a stunning musical journey, yet it is the groups' first single, 2000's "Lovely Head" that provides the ideal summary of everything that makes Goldfrapp such a phenomenal talent.

It is songs such as "Lovely Head" that make it difficult to understand why most electronic-based artists are written off by the mass media has having a lesser talent than those that play physical instruments.  Within moments of hearing this song, it is clear that Will Greogry and Allison Goldfrapp's abilities to create unforgettable, completely enthralling sonic landscapes is second to none, and this mood persists throughout the entire album.  The way in which the pair mix together a wide range of sound effects into the overall arrangement is truly beautiful, and it is within "Lovely Head" that one can experience the unique way in which the duo create songs that work just as perfectly in a science-fiction film as they do as the soundtrack to an evening at home.  The music has an exceptionally seductive swing to it, and the way in which the keyboards lightly dance behind the vocals before rising in volume to almost play a duet to the vocals is perhaps the most alluring aspect of the song.  Yet one can hear elements of everything from soul to blues within the arrangement, and it is this diverse blending of sounds that enables "Lovely Head" to rise far beyond "just electornica."  Furthermore, there is an intensity within the music that works against the fundamentals of most "ambient" songs, and yet one cannot deny the similar nature that is shared.  It is the way in which the song is able to fit into so many categories, yet simultaneously none at all that makes "Lovely Head" so alluring, and it is this fact that proves just how much talent lives within the team of Gregory and Goldfrapp.

However, while one cannot overlook just how amazingly perfect the musical arrangement is on "Lovely Head," there is simply nothing that can overshadow the sensational vocal talents of Allison Goldfrapp.  Without question possessing one of the most powerfully and unique voices of her generation, it is songs like "Lovely Head" that make it obvious that she knows no limits in any sense of the word, as her performance is nothing short of stunning.  Whether it is the deep, slinky sounds that she brings to the verses or the unrestrained, magnificent way in which her voice soars across the bridge, one cannot help but be awed by the combination of beauty and raw power within her singing.  Furthermore, Goldfrapp brings an almost overwhelming amount of emotion to each line that she sings, and it is this raw honesty that helps to further mesmerize the listener.  Adding to the unique charm of "Lovely Head," the lyrics are, much like the vocals, intimate in their own way, and they become the ideal final touch to the song.  Though it can be interpreted in a few different ways, there is an undeniable sense of beautiful innocence and deep affection that can be felt when Goldfrapp opens the song with the lines, " starts in my belly, then up to my heart, into my mouth I can't keep it shut..."  Yet even with these sentiments and her amazing voice, there is an odd sense of coldness or disconnect one can feel within Goldfrapp's singing, and it is this juxtaposition that enables "Lovely Head" to become an act of musical genius that is completely beyond description.

Taking all of these ideas into account, there is one final aspect of "Lovely Head" that in many ways sums up the talents of the duo, and this can be found within one of the sounds that is often perceived as something which it is not.  While most assume that the unique tone and progression that follows Goldfrapp's singing on the verses is that of a theremin, it is in fact, her own voice, being sent through a variety of voice modulators.  The fact that Gregory and she have found a way to turn a single sound into something so wonderfully different is a testament not only to their talents "behind the boards," but also to the high level of creativity that lives within both of them.  In its entirety, Felt Mountain is a musical journey unlike any other in music history, as it brings to mind so many different styles and moods, yet the groups' unique personality is never lost.  Whether they are creating a heart-racing, almost overwhelming musical work, or a soft, delicate composition, the pairing of Will Gregory and Allison Goldfrapp clearly know no limits, and this amazing amount of musical diversity is perhaps the key reason why each of their records is so fantastic.  However, even with this rare level of consistency, one can argue that it is their first album that stands as their finest work, as the pair delve deep into each song, creating moods that truly swallow the listener, creating entire worlds all around them.  The way in which Allison Goldfrapp's voice soars across the track, working in perfect compliment to the complex, enchanting sounds is absolutely unlike anything else in music history, and it is much the reason that one cannot find any sort of equal to Goldfrapp's brilliant 2000 single, "Lovely Head."

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