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[Digital review only]
Frou Frou were an electronic duo consisting of Imogen Heap (vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, a huge inspiration of mine) and Guy Sigsworth (multi-instrumentalist, produced Heap's first album, had previously worked with many well-known musicians such as Björk and Madonna). They only released this one album, Details, in 2002, and then split so Heap could concentrate on her solo project and Guy could produce and co-write with a variety of musicians. I discovered this album through Dooyoo, and despite having no particular interest in electronic music before, it grew on me rapidly. Enough background information; you're interested in how it sounds, right?
1. Let Go (4:13)
2. Breathe In (4:37)
3. It's Good To Be In Love (4:39)
4. Must Be Dreaming (4:01)
5. Psychobabble (5:33)
6. Only Got One (4:09)
7. Shh (5:34)
8. Hear Me Out (4:19)
9. Maddening Shroud (3:37)
10. Flicks (3:58)
11. The Dumbing Down of Love (4:44)
12. Old Piano (5:09)
The album begins with some nice electronic stuff, lush strings and Imogen's unique, often breathy voice. The melodies sound so good, as with the entire album. A catchy chorus welcomes in the gated electronic drums, and sets the tone of things to come. I personally find the chorus a little repetitive by the end of the song, although I have given the album an enormous amount of listens. The song is carried out with the strings and Imogen telling us about how "there's beauty in the breakdown". All in all, not a bad start!
A guitar with some unusual processing on the volume is joined by a disjunct bassline, before once more we get the electronic drums and vocals. The chorus is very catchy at first, but again it does seem a little repetitive after a while. The lyrics to the second verse ('What part of no don't you understand? I've told you before. Just get off my case, this isn't happening, stop this now ') sound like one half of a conversation, as do a few lyrics on the album. I like the acapella bridge, before the electronic-ness swells up, the short drum motif plays, and there's one vocal syllable which feels really close, leading into the final chorus. Most instruments disappear at the end, leaving only the guitar and a bunch of beautifully interwoven vocal tracks.
-It's Good To Be In Love-
It's not the most masculine song, I'd be reluctant to listen to it in public during the sad days when I don't have headphones! The drums sound heavily processed, but still seem real. The initial line of "I don't know where to begin: Say I'm tired or throw a party" usually draws a smile. There are some really interesting electronic sounds at around 4 minutes onwards. The song is average; it doesn't sound bad, but it's cheesy, isn't particularly inspiring and doesn't always hold my interest.
-Must Be Dreaming-
The chorus is definitely the highlight here. From the vocal melody, to the glitched snare, to the bass line, to nice pad, to the other instrument in there that I can't describe with words. Each layer on its own is mesmerizing, then they all fit together while maintaining their own space. I think this is partly due to the each instrument's part being written while thinking carefully about the bigger picture, and partly the mix being fantastic throughout the album.
Definitely the highlight of the album so far. After a few laid back songs, things get more intense. I really really love this song, it gives me THAT feeling. The start is a slightly unsettling bell-like descending four note sequence. There's an incredible, unusual, glissando-y bass sound that can probably be best described as doooBEEUW (just listen to it, then you may/may not understand) which is used a lot in the song, and has a really appealing rhythm in the chorus. The strings build until the chorus comes, which is a tense warning of "Do just what I tell you, and no-one will get hurt." After the second chorus, the strings take centre stage for a nice dramatic section with a rhythm that constantly evolves. Then there are a few other brilliant parts - everything about this song is incredible. You need this song, and you need lots of volume. From start to finish, this song is a pure masterpiece.
-Only Got One-
Just before the vocals begin, there's a brief melody on a wind instrument which just begs you to sing it in falsetto with a smile. Or maybe that's just me? Anyway, once again the natural and the electronic are mixed together in such a way that sounds really organic and fresh. It's more upbeat than the first few tracks, and has a certain energy to it. Anybody who has read some of my other album reviews may know that I have a love for rhythms that are out of the ordinary; consequently the syncopation on the delivery of the title line was very welcome. At the end, the focus turns to the piano for the first time in the album, as there's a simple but effective melody.
The first time I heard this song, I wasn't too sure about it, but it quickly became a favourite. The song somehow feels relaxed and yet has a sense of urgency at the same time. The chorus is fantastic. Just before the second chorus, there's a little hint to the bridge, and then when the bridge itself arrives... Wow. It's one of those moments where everything just seems perfect. Pure magic. There's such space, and it makes me feel all tingly inside. A tasty instrumental follows, and it goes on for quite a while until it fades, but there's plenty going on to hold my attention. Considering how short my attention span is, that's quite a feat!
-Hear Me Out-
The intro is an example of the unique sounds which Frou Frou conjure up. As with all the songs, there are plenty of aurally pleasing layers. It's not one of the best songs on the album in my opinion, but it's still worth a listen. The lyrics in the chorus are very straightforward and confessional (Listen up, this sun hasn't set. I refuse to believe that it's only me feeling it. Just hear me out, I'm not over you yet.). There's also a nice little acoustic guitar riff which makes a few brief appearances.
This is my least favourite song on the album, and I've tended to skip it lately. The lyrics seem weak, and the melodies aren't as pleasing to my ears as in the other songs. The most interesting part on offer is maybe the bass, but I can rarely sustain an interest throughout the entire track.
This is where things take a huge step up, back into the favourites. As soon as I hear the opening notes, a voice in my head shouts "YAY!"
The song gradually builds up over the first minute or so. The production stands out on this song especially, but on the whole album the mixing shows lots of ideas, but it never feels like things are being done for the sake of it. The vocals in the chorus are the kind of 'da-ah-ooh-daay-um-da-um-da' nonsense I've come to know, love and expect from Immi. There are plenty of little subtleties and surprises, making it a very fun song to listen to.
-The Dumbing Down of Love-
Another breathtaking song, this one is slower. From the very first listen, I was in love with this song. The emphasis here is on the vocals and piano, with pads and various instrumental additions popping up from time to time. One of my favourite lines I've ever heard is the beautiful bridge:
'Music is worthless unless it can make a complete stranger break down and cry.'
I don't describe things as perfect often, but that line really does sound perfect. There's a huge amount of passion that can be heard in this record, which is a huge positive point for me. There is such an evidently deep connection with the music, which I don't hear often in many musicians. An unbelievably amazing song.
This song has sent me to sleep on numerous occasions, but that's not to say it's boring. While the dissonant piano and intermittent rumbling bass at the start aren't what you'd expect to carry anyone to a hypnagogic state, it's quickly replaced by a nice, simple melody, a soothing clicking, and a lovely ambience which sounds like a mixture between rain and some kind of analog saturation. The trumpet comes back, one of the many things which adds to the unique feel. The abstract vocals (What's that you're saying there? Oh well. Rain rushing window pane. Oh well...) provoke intrigue, and there's a memorable moment where a huge wall of sound approaches, so when it disappears everything feels so calm and free. It's all very relaxing, and enough to send me to sleep with a smile on my face.
Overall, it's a fantastic album. There are a few songs which let the side down for me, but the whole thing may appeal to somebody who usually listens to electronic music. If it was more consistent, I would have definitely given a 5 star rating.
No matter which genres you listen to usually, I'd recommend opening your mind and giving at least a few of the songs a try, then purchasing the album if they appeal to you. I'm definitely glad I tried it!
The CD is currently available at Amazon for £5.93, with free UK delivery.
Frou Frou was a band featuring the singer Imogen Heap and Details is the only album by the band. It came out in 2002 and became more well known in 2004 due to the song Let Go being included on the Garden State soundtrack, playing at the end of the film. I already knew Imogen Heap before this, but I wasn't aware of the Frou Frou album until Garden State. I got the album on the strength of the song Let Go, without having heard any of the other songs. It was a good decision as this an album that I still like to listen to sometimes now, years later. I forgot about it for a few years but rediscovered Imogen Heap and Frou Frou about a year ago and started playing it a lot more again.
Frou Frou's style is light, dreamy and slightly electronic pop with Imogen Heap's clear vocals. In my opinion the style is consistent throughout the album, so I think it works very well as one coherent whole, with no songs sounding awkwardly placed or sticking out. It flows really well and is a brilliant album to put on and relax.
=== Tracks ===
This song is just beautiful and always reminds me of the film Garden State, which I also really recommend if you haven't seen it. I have to admit I cried at the final scene with this song when I first saw the film. It is an emotional song, sad but positive, saying "it's alright, there's beauty in the breakdown". It's a song which deserved to be a massive hit, but although it did get quite a lot of recognition due to Garden State I don't think it ever became really well known. This song is definitely indicative of the rest of the album, so if you like this you will like all of it.
This starts by seeming to be a positive and upbeat but still chilled song about love. It has a heavier backing beat than Let Go, which is much more delicate. As it progresses it loses the positivity and there is a bit which is almost spoken word before Imogen sings "is this it?"
It's Good To Be In Love:
This is lovely, poppy song with a clear melody. As the chorus kicks in, the instrumentals sound floaty and you could be forgiven for getting the impression it is a happy, dreamy, positive song. However, if you listen to the lyrics this is actually anything but the case! Imogen sings "It's good to be in love.
It really does suit you" and "Why's it happening? How's it happening without me?" and it is clear that it is a song about trying to be happy about someone moving on and in love but not with her. This makes it quite a bitter sweet song and I really like it.
Must Be Dreaming:
This is a light and slightly dancy song with quite a repetitive chorus. The vocals are quite high and seem to effortlessly soar.
This starts with minimal instrumentals, with Imogen's voice taking centre stage on the song. Her vocals sound quite hypnotic, as she sings lyrics such as "do just what I tell you and no one will get hurt". As she sings with such minimal backing, it really showcases what a strong and clear voice she has. Her voice is quite distinctive and I think she is a great singer who sounds like a natural talent, not overly polished but capable of hitting high notes effortlessly. This is also a sad song about heartbreak. It has an air of desperation to it, repeating at the end "so what do we do now?"
Only Got One:
This is a highlight of the album for me. I absolutely love this song. The lyrics state "it's your life, but you've only got one" with soft, sparkling, dreamy instrumentals. I really like the way Imogen pronounces all the words clearly and doesn't try to disguise her English accent like some singers do.
This is a dancy and slightly hypnotic sounding song. It has a nice melody, a very catchy chorus and a catchy bit in the middle before going into an instrumental break and then continuing as mostly instrumental with some vocals by Imogen which are not really lyrics, but more just mm, da da type noises. It's another good one!
Hear Me Out:
This is another highlight for me and such a good song. It has a lovely melody and is quite a simple song which has a really relaxed and dreamy atmosphere. It is about phoning to tell someone she is not over them yet. It has a sense of hope and builds into a beautiful full sound.
This is another really catchy one with a good melody. The lyrics are hardly the most positive, "Oh, I've got a good mind to throw it all away, throw it all away, throw it all away, after all, what is it worth? Sometimes I like to get away from the saddening crowd. Sometimes I feel my life is all in vain" However, Imogen somehow manages to make this sound like a happy, light and catchy pop song. I like this contradiction in the song as the lyrics give it a bit of a twist and it is not what you think on first listen.
I love this song too and I would also say it is a highlight. The lyrics are a bit weird and I'm not completely sure what they are about, but the tune and vocals of this are just amazing. They are really light and ethereal in atmosphere but powerful, building and fading throughout the song. Some of the vocals in parts are not actually words but just random noises.
The Dumbing Down of Love:
This song is my least favourite but it is nice enough. It has a slightly different vibe to the rest of the album as it is not electronic or dancy at all and just features Imogen and a piano. It does show off her voice effectively and is a nice tune, but I prefer the other, fuller songs and I find this one slightly repetitive.
=== Overall ===
I definitely recommend this CD. You should be able to pick it up quite cheaply, for example a used copy on Amazon market place is currently under £2 and Amazon itself is selling new copies for £4.99. You can also listen to this on Spotify.
If you like pop with personality, relaxing but dancy tunes and good vocals this should appeal to you. If you like Imogen Heap's solo work then you should definitely listen to this. If you have never listened to Imogen Heap but like bands like Metric, Zero 7, Eisley, The Postal Service, The Notwist you would probably enjoy this. It is hard to really compare it to anything though as I do think Frou Frou has quite a unique sound and I love it.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Let Go
2 Breathe In
3 It's Good To Be In Love
4 Must Be Dreaming
6 Only Got One
8 Hear Me Out
9 Maddening Shroud
11 The Dumbing Down Of Love
12 Old Piano
13 Enhanced Section