Goldfrapp: Seventh Tree

Amid the atmospherics of Felt Mountain, the synth-cabaret bombast of Black Cherry and the lascivious Supernature grows Seventh Tree, a massive step in Goldfrapp's evolution with only a passing resemblance to the English duo's previous albums. Though Seventh Tree will no doubt spawn some excellent remixes, there are no readily apparent dance singles here; the grooves never get harder than the trip-hop breaks of "Little Bird," where the synthesizer lurks off to the side like a threat. Allison Goldfrapp's captivating vocals take center stage on "Clowns," "Some People" and "A&E," all of which showcase some of the most interesting melodies Goldfrapp and partner Will Gregory have ever recorded. "Caravan Girl" bears a Beach Boys stamp on its forehead, while the title track is almost seamless, with only spare vestiges of angularity. Oddly reminiscent of Mercury Rev, Seventh Tree removes Goldfrapp's sound from the night's most feverish hours into an early-morning landscape of gentle hallucinations and half-conscious dreams. There may be better albums released in 2008, but it's hard to imagine one more satisfying.

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Chris Henderson