On Rotation: Jens Lekman, Hot Chip, Moloko

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Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)

The problem with listening to this album in one sitting is that it brings out the songs’ sameness: they are all, for the most part, insanely beautiful, with a retro influence plus some quirk in tempo, structure, or production. The genre mashups shouldn’t be predictable, but all feels a little calculated and shallow. Or maybe the album is just so good that I’m taking Lekman’s talent for granted. Anyway, I prefer to listen to the songs individually to get lost in them.

Least favourite track: “It Was a Strange Time in My Life.” I don’t usually pick one of these out, but special mention must be made to this song. The child vocals are far too gimmicky, not to mention irritating. There’s some surprisingly mean lines about shy people that I take offense to. And given that other songs on this album easily manage to make things such as getting a haircut or accidentally slicing off the tip of your finger sound romantic, does Lekman really feel the need to convince us he can be strange?

Favourite track: “Kanske Är Jag Kär I Dig.” This one has my favourite retro influence, a doo wop backing, and my favourite quirk, the music “stuttering” along with the lyrics. Best of all is the way the stuttering gets incorporated into the triumphant, wordless closing sequence, suggesting that the narrator’s inability to say something impressive isn’t going to hold him back.

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Hot Chip – One Life Stand (2010)

Hot Chip are definitely a singles band; their albums tend to be full of tracks that are so mushy, not to mention borderline atonal, that they barely qualify as songs. One Life Stand is, on the whole, stronger than 2008’s Made in the Dark, but it doesn’t have anything as brilliant as “One Pure Thought” or “Ready for the Floor,” either. The band is over-reliant on major/minor key changes and Joe Goddard’s mumbled vocals continue to ruin any song where he gets the lead, but the band’s better moments are good enough that I won’t give up on them.

Favourite track: “Hand Me Down Your Love.” This one keeps things simple, rhythmic, and sweet without being cloying.

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Moloko – Statues (2002)

I’ve always hated Statues’ album art, not just because the goofy portraits are mostly unflattering, but because they give you no clue about the songs contained within. Statues is Róisín Murphy and Mark Brydon’s breakup album, personally and professionally. It’s not a fun listen. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty bland, without the edge and eccentricity that characterise Moloko’s earlier albums, as well as Murphy’s solo career.

Favourite track: This album has a few 5-minute-plus semi-epics, but fewer danceable numbers. “Forever More” is both. A lively bass line keeps the whole thing moving along as the song builds and shifts, going through distorted vocals, trumpets, synth stabs, and piano and organ freakouts. It’s also one of the few songs on Statues that lyrically addresses something that nonetheless underpins the whole album: deep feelings of loss and longing that seem all the stronger because the songs have been written around them. Watching the video also reminds me that this song is why I became interested in Moloko in the first place.

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