Goldfrapp must be the bane of industry executives who prefer pop to come in marketable boxes. Where the duo's debut mixed Weimar cabaret, folk and David Lynch-style eeriness, their mid-period hits went European disco. This sixth album veers closer to the former in creating a fantasy environment. Tracks given characters' names are a vehicle for Alison Goldfrapp to purr tales of romance, possession and psychological horror over guitar and minimal orchestrations. Drew and Annabel are deceptively pretty songs with sinister undercurrents. The Willow Song (the haunting ballad sung by Britt Ekland in The Wicker Man) is the obvious reference point, but musical surprises range from a Duran Duran guitar riff to Ulla's unlikely similarity to the theme from children's TV show White Horses. Clay – inspired by a real life soldier's letter to a deceased male military lover – is stunningly moving. However, with only the quietly thumping Thea having a beat, the tunes don't all carry the album's single pace. As a result, Tales of Us is slightly more mesmerising soundscape than collection of genuinely outstanding songs.
Goldfrapp: Tales of Us – review
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author