The Brooklyn synth-pop scene has, in recent years, come to rival that of the monumental Scandi-pop scene, pilfering liberally from the likes of Robyn and Lykke Li, while pouring just a smidgen of Billyberg jollop over it for the kids who need an added element of ironic cool with which to digest their pop. Savoir Adore are but another to emerge from such a scene, having already unleashed The Adventures of Mr. Pumpernickel and the Girl with Animals in Her Throat on a mostly 'meh' world back in 2008. We're in an area of the musical system that I didn't even make that title up to boost the word count. So Our Nature, perhaps unsurprisingly, is gearing itself up for more widespread success.
Opener 'Dreamers' kicks things off in charming fashion, invoking just the right amount of Eighties-channelling sparkle synths, not-quite-stadium-sized-but-not-far-off singalong melodies and standard-issue ethereal vocals to tick every possible indie synth-pop box. 'Regalia' follows suit, jangling along like a slightly demented rally call at a street parade. Both songs are brilliantly fun, perfect sparkly pop, and by far the album's best. Other songs come close, like 'Loveliest Creature' with its lullaby chorus, or 'Speed Bump' with its sultry disco glam; but there's too many other songs that simply don't live up to the promise. For every gigantosingle in waiting, there's a 'Wild Davie', songs desperately reaching for any kind of memorability factor, or feeling a bit half-baked as with 'Empire of Light'. It's the industry's biggest cliche that an album needs more singles, but this album really does need more peaks, and indeed troughs, to spark it into life in amongst a sea of electro mid-tempos.
There's also what can only be described as, frankly, a baffling tendency to heap a load of mega-distorted electric guitar over everything. Well, no, not baffling, in the sense that anybody can take any instrument and do what they like with it so long as it doesn't land them or others in the hospital. But the instrument's almost constant presence on this album frequently jars, feeling crowbarred into sonic dreamscapes for the sake of it. Our Nature comes off as being the work of a duo afraid of 'just' making pop music, and feeling some sort of need to assert themselves as being different to all the rest. Having been described as 'electronic' and 'folk', it sounds like an attempt at genre-mashing without any actual guts behind it to bolster the process. The biggest irony of it all is, such tactics don't actually make the songs themselves any more interesting. Especially towards the album's conclusion it feels like they're all just blending in to one veeeeeeeeeeeery looooooooooong song. When an album starts feeling like it should be wrapping up around track nine, let's be honest, it's never a great feeling. When you realise there's three tracks to go AND they feel like they're going on for approximately the length of War and Peace, the off button can't come soon enough.
It all feels a bit like Sleigh Bells with the volume turned way down. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but on the evidence of Our Nature, it seems like it's the only semi-reliable trick Savoir Adore have in their toolbox. As an album it's neither bombastic enough to immediately grab you by the throat and refuse to let go, nor subtle and intricate enough to demand and reward repeated listens. It's just, kind of... there, really. If only they'd dared to venture out beyond the hipster curtain and fully embraced their pop side, instead of trying to minimise it.
5Krystina Nellis's Score