I admittedly lost sight of Cate Le Bon in the swarm of fantastic female rock singers that have graced the spotlight of the past several years. I remember listening to her albums and enjoying them, but perhaps overlooking their relisten value. Until now...
Cate Le Bon is by no means new to the scene. She has been around for over a decade crafting her sound; each album an evolution of herself and her career. Her debut, Me Oh My was an intriguing folk adjacent effort with an avant garde sheen to it. From there, Le Bon progressed forward in sonic audacity, moving deeper into artsy and surreal pop. Her decade career of wood-shopping her sound has come to a critical peak with her new album, Pompeii.
The sounds of Pompeii come together in a way that few electronic based albums can. They absolutely melt into one another, creating an art-pop stew. Pompeii is haunting and mysterious, but without any uneasiness; it is still a very relaxing listen. The music is simultaneously unsteady and sharp and beautifully crafted, filled with intent and purpose. Each track melds folds into the next, making Pompeii feel like a single compelling suite.
A very common pitfall of the 'art' subgenre, be it art-rock, art-pop, art-whatever, is an album's unnecessary gravitas. It takes itself so seriously that it comes off as sterile. Pompeii bounces along with a dreamy playfulness that keeps the record lively and easygoing. This is especially apparent in the unexpected sound-blasts like the saxophone on "Running Away," which pepper Pompeii between Le Bon's continuous bass and synth. The levity is even more pronounced considering Cate Le Bon isn't the most charismatic front-woman to grace the stage. Sometimes Le Bon can eek her way into pretentious, lyrically speaking, but she gets away with it. Her words certainly aren't bad by any means, in fact often the opposite, but they gravitate more to imagery than narrative. Some of her oddball word-choices actually helps make Pompeii more mysterious, and there is enough sonic space in the record to allow the listener to ruminate over some of the more arcane lyrics without losing site of the over-arching sonic theme.
Pompeii finishes itself strong with the funky "Remembering Me," a perfect for the record. It's dark but still kind of playful synth beat encapsulates the motif for this record, which is puzzling in the most wonderful way. Dark yet agreeable, dissonant yet accessible: A total summation of all the paradoxes that make this album so wonderfully unique.