reviewed by Michael Thomas
Two-and-a-half years and two singles later, Valois is back, and it’s worth noting that both this album and their previous both include the word “you,” as though it’s delivering a message directly to you. This album’s message is far less optimistic than its predecessor, but the music is positively joyous.
Most songs on the album don’t wait to set a mood—Charles Hoppner is usually singing within the first two seconds and the beats are already fully formed. Relationships (romantic and friendly) are key to this album, starting with Hoppner’s proclamation at the beginning of the album that he’s “Easy to love and hard to keep loving” and cycling through other themes like supporting other musicians, navigating the friend/more-than-friend line and eventually into a full-on meltdown.
It’s fun to imagine this album as a serious of scenes taking place at a never-ending party. “Easy to Love” is a retro-sounding banger complete with all kinds of self-doubt. Hoppner sings of being worried about a new partner and uses the puzzling phrase “I’ve got a love and I’ve got to write it down.” Previously a single, “Heartsparkle” is possibly the last song on the album that has a positive bent, as it’s all about the unsung female heroes of music.
From that point onward, sadness and confusion reign even if the music sounds positive. “Friends” is the aforementioned relationship-navigation sung and it’s sung by Shannon Murray. What starts as “just a little crush” eventually leads to Murray singing “We built this bridge to burn it down.” It’s the first song to ease off the synths and instead relies on guitar. In “Repetitions” we forgo the retro beats to something angry and almost industrial; Hoppner is no longer singing so much as angrily proclaiming. In the song he says “It’s all on me” but concludes later, half-screaming, “It’s all on you, it’s not on me!” The last few seconds of the song feature just Hoppner saying a few words, and there’s something charming about the way he stumbles over one of his lines and keeps it in.
The closest to a slow jam on this album is “You Deserve Better,” where the anger has melted away into sadness. “When we cry do we cry the same tears? Will we write the same songs, will I always resent you?” is a line that comes in partway through the song.
The end of the album is a journey called “Glitter,”an eight-minute song of many moving parts. There’s crunchy synth textures at the beginning, a guitar solo later, and at about the six-minute mark, a long sample features a woman scolding a crying girl, the girl’s cries eventually fading away as the woman angrily lectures. It’s a bleak ending, finally making the mood of the lyrics explicit, should it ever get lost in the joyous-sounding songs.
Who is the “you” in this album? Don’t let it be you. Join in.
Top Tracks: “Easy To Love”; “You Deserve Better”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)