English duo Goldfrapp have always vacillated between creating the sort of intellectually satisfying dance-pop Lady Gaga dreams of making, and moody, mellow electro-folk. Their sixth album, Tales of Us
, falls in the latter category, reminding us of how we fell in love with them in the first place with 2000's sublime Felt Mountain
. From the morose yet singsongy opener "Jo," we're thrust into a world of glacial beauty, full of scenic strings, gentle acoustic guitars and Alison Goldfrapp's otherworldly coo. At times she channels freak-folk icon Vashti Bunyan or Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser (in another Cocteau nod, nearly all of Tales of Us
' song titles are names, like that band's classic album Treasure
); accompanied by little more than baroque acoustic guitar in "Annabel," her husky, weary voice takes center stage. Perhaps the most stunning example of Goldfrapp's sound on Tales of Us
is "Drew," which ups the drama in the form of stirring strings, sounding a bit like Nancy Sinatra's work with Lee Hazlewood (or especially her James Bond theme, "You Only Live Twice"). Those looking for the beats of Goldfrapp's trip-hop past are rewarded with "Thea," a beautiful return to form that doesn't feel misplaced, its pulse livening things up late int he album. Tales of Us
is the kind of album that marinates in the background, but its quietly dramatic melodies slowly, but surely, take a hold of you.