A few years in the California sun doesn’t seem to have affected Cate Le Bon’s music too much, and thank goodness for that. She’s always had an ear for the tuneful — and the abstruse — and her fourth album, Crab Day, doesn’t find her deviating from that left field trajectory.
With her third album, 2013’s Mug Museum, Le Bon stripped back the arrangements to an almost minimalistic point. She furthers this style on Crab Day, which suits her often dry delivery so well. Her cool detachment is needed to sell her abstract lyrics, as illustrated on the album’s title track. No lush arrangement or rich vocal would make the line, ‘Speak your eyes to me on Crab Day’ more convincing; she does well by moulding what she’s got and leaning into the weird.
But a dry delivery doesn’t translate to an unemotional experience. The bluntness of ‘I’m a Dirty Attic’ does not distract from the cringe of self-loathing the song induces, whatever it may mean for a person to be a dirty attic (and yeah, that’s got something to do with how easy it is to hear ‘attic’ as ‘addict’).
Across Crab Day, though, there is a lightness to Le Bon’s arrangements. She doesn’t go for dramatic shifts in tempo or tones, which makes subtle additions more obvious. After a few listens, it’s difficult not to hear a deconstructed carnival vibe in ‘Yellow Blinds, Cream Shadows’ or ‘What’s Not Mine.’ The horn sections are one of those subtle additions that add an element of whimsy, which contrasts sharply with Le Bon’s vocals and emphasizes a sense of otherness. In the case of “What’s Not Mine,” the album’s final track, that whimsy warps into wistfulness. But it’s not terribly surprising; whether it’s wrapped up in cool detachment, dry delivery or lyrics full of odd images, all weirdness has a little sadness at heart.
7Amanda Farah's Score