This is an eminently likeable album, an indie gem. I never hear anyone talking about it and that baffles me. It’s appealingly gentle and dance-ably catchy by turns whilst still sounding for the most part like a cohesive whole. Go listen to it.
The Power Out came out all the way back in 2004 when I was 10, I didn’t hear it until I was in my early 20s, but when I did I immediately fell in love with it as an underappreciated indie gem. On the album the all female 4 piece from Brighton play with the different kinds of vocals you can use whilst still retaining a pop sensibility. We hear choirs singing wartime poetry, Spanish sonnets and even some Neitzsche in its original German (on one of the singles no less). None of this distracts from what is an achingly easy listen. In fact it wasn’t until researching for this review that I knew any of that. They manage to make this eclectic collection of vocal sources sound completely in service of the music.
The album cover with its faded photographs sets the nostalgic tone for the album. We open gently with simple clean guitars laid over synth. The lyrics are in french but the music is enough to give you their impression. It’s wistful, nostalgic stuff, a tone we return to repeatedly over the course of the album.
There is sublime simplicity in all the tracks that only reinforces their enjoyability. This is especially true for the next track and stand out single of the album: On Parade. The guitar, drums and bass interweave to move your feet. The vocals wake up from the previous track with some high pitched yelps. A fun track, short and sweet.
Another song and another vocal style, we go from traditional indie rock to choir singing. All set to jaunty cheap organ sounds. While the sound might be a departure, it is tethered back to that nostalgia that the album opened with, creating a wonderful through line that makes this feel like an album.
Next is possibly my favourite track: Birds. It’s guitar led and every note feels right. The vocals sound beautifully imperfect and it all comes together to lament the missing of someone when outside commitments force you to part. The music builds in pace as the feeling swells before sidling of regretfully. By all rights it should sound sentimental but it manages to move past that into something that sounds more direct and honest.
Later we have the reply to this track. While Birds falls on the lamentation side of nostalgia, Enter Laughing manages to take a more lighthearted approach. It too deals with regrets over partings with another but by both the tone and name of the track we can hear that it is a more accepted and enjoyed nostalgia than that of Birds.
Unfortunately the last third of the album gets a bit lost in a fine but not exceptional handful of (kind of) jam tracks before finally settling back into its original wistful tone with an instrumental plinky plonky closing track. It’s a shame as it’s all that takes this away from being a must listen. There’s nothing actually bad here just nothing great in this last third.
On this album Electrelane sound like a band who know they can make enjoyable pop tracks. They know how to blend their elements together without it sounding too busy nor too simple. They know their music works. This album follows a nearly instrumental one and you can tell. The aim here was clearly to try and really introduce lyrical instrumentation. We hear different languages, different styles and different inspirations. But this eclectic mix is always held in respectable restraint. Even for its rockier parts this is at its heart a gentle album and that gentleness is what keeps bringing me back to this album.