Retro-revival is alive and well it seems, and Welsh artist Cate Le Bon is taking Jefferson Airplane vocals, some old school instrumentation and some interesting sound effects and making it her own. Her latest album Mug Museum feels a walk through 60s folk-pop and is one of those albums you’ll love and could probably trick your parents into thinking is some band they know.
“I Can’t Help You” starts the album with all the harmonies and racing melodies it will bring later and sets the tone for the retro sound. The above shown “Are You With Me Now?” is a throwback to the Roy Orbisons and Buddy Hollys of yesteryear and adds in the sad, haunting tone of Cate’s vocals. “Duke” is one of my favourite songs on the album for its simple completely natural yet complete tonal shifts in every section, besides it’s euphoric intro. Jumping from the staccato, guitar driven verses, to cloudy synth-dosed prechoruses to the chugging bass driven chorus chant, and the playful bridge. The final chants of the song feel not only powerful but proud, a genuine feeling not present in much music now.
There’s a cockiness to the groove of “No God” it immediately grabs you and holds you and lets you fall into every refrains tumbling notes, all while lead along by Le Bon’s enchanting vocals. The album jumps from cool and pensive, to sad on “I Think I Knew” who’s high vocals and fragile sounding keyboard already make you feel melancholy enough before leading you into the even sadder following verses of artist Perfume Genius that sound even more broken and when playing call and response with Le Bon takes on a cool feel before the delightfully sad final chorus.
The album gets decidedly heavier on “Wild” with louder guitars and decidedly fuzzier organs, with a very dreamy and Jefferson Airplane inspired pre/choruses. “Sisters” jumps back to the cool sound of some earlier songs, riding its bassline like the wind, and letting Le Bon’s voice mesmerize the listener, while it’s keyboard lick is definitely the most grabbing part of the song. “Mirror Me” follows a deep drum movement and takes the decidedly full and slow route switching between a very minimalist sound and being filled with as many keys and textured guitars as possible. “Cuckoo Through The Walls” has a very a dawny feel to it, riding many brilliant sounding riffs and a lo-fi yet appropriate guitar. Not to pick up the speed much, it just chugs along, falling into a mess of cacophony and thrashing that somehow maintains its beauty. The album ends on the somber piano ballad “Mug Museum.” A song who drifts between almost unbearable sadness and the happiness of some stray clarinet parts.
For those of you in Toronto, she is actually playing at the Drake Hotel tonight. (the 21st)