Sunday, October 18, 2015
Making Mirrors - Gotye
Universal Republic Records B0016449-01
I first heard Gotye on KCRW which is our local NPR station. I would describe their playlist as hipster-light. The song was "Somebody That I Used to Know" and like most of the world I loved it the moment I heard it. The song was soon in heavy rotation on KCRW and Gotye even did a live set on the air there that I really enjoyed. Then much to my amazement the song took off and soon it was everywhere including the popular stations that my son liked. My son loved the song as much as I did and it made me happy to bond with him over it. In the old days when I was a snob, this kind of massive popular success would have been the kiss of death for me, but now I embraced it. I was glad the song was everywhere. I took my son to see Gotye live back in 2012 and we both had a great time. I think an artist who can bridge generations is special. Some of the hipsters at work poked fun at me when I mentioned liking the Gotye show, but I could not care less. I respect Gotye as an artist and I think this album is terrific. It begins with the introspective "Making Mirrors" which is a dreamy tune that barely lasts a minute. The album kicks into gear with the propulsive "Easy Way Out" which is one of my favorite cuts. This song about ennui and difficulty getting away from past feelings is driven by fuzzy guitar riffs. This song leads into the slinky groove of the "Somebody That I Used to Know" which is the ultimate song about being hung up on the past. As you probably already know, this song is about the emotional wreckage of a break-up. It is one of the most potent break-up songs I've ever heard. Before I heard it a thousand times it used to give me chills with its emotional power. The most inspired aspect of the song is bringing in Kimbra to provide an alternative viewpoint to the self-pity of the main part of the song. The side finishes with another uptempo song, the exuberant "Eyes Wide Open." Powered by resounding drum beats and an impassioned vocal from Gotye, this song chronicles the ecological disaster created by humans indifferent to the consequences. The B side begins with the electronic pop of "Smoke and Mirrors." The song is about selling out and artistic integrity, remarkably prescient considering how Gotye's career took off abruptly taking him from cult figure to international superstar. The song is not directed explicitly at himself and I'm not saying it necessarily applies to him, but I find the issues it raises are interesting in this context. If nothing else it does show Gotye's artistic awareness and introspective nature. The mood lifts for the joyous sunshine pop of "I Feel Better." The song is a paean to love and friendship. It is not deep, but provides some welcome lightness to the album. "In Your Light" continues in a similar vein both lyrically and musically as he celebrates the joy love brings him. Side C opens with "State of the Art" which celebrates Gotye's acquisition of a vintage Lowrey Cotillion electric organ which he uses throughout the song as he lauds its various features. Gotye combines this old technology with modern electronic devices, distorting his voice as well as using samples to flesh out the smorgasbord of sounds that drive the song. It is silly but fun unlike the next song, "Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching You." It is a reggae style electronic song with a plodding, lethargic beat and a foreboding sound to it that matches its creepy lyrics. It is about trying to leave some controlling organization, probably a religion. It makes me think of Scientology but it could apply to a lot of things. Side D begins with "Giving Me a Chance" which is about finding redemption with a loved one. It is low key romantic electropop. "Save Me" has an ebullient world music sound bolstered by prominent percussion and an abundance of instrumental overdubs, both analog and electronic. It is an extremely upbeat song about being redeemed through the power of love. The records concludes with "Bronte" which is not about the famous sister authors, but rather about a dying pet. It is a beautiful and delicate song that gives the album an emotional and sensitive ending. Some people rag on Gotye for being wimpy and whiny, but I admire his emotional honesty and expressiveness. This record is full of self-doubt and angst for sure, but it also features Gotye's indomitable will to find his way and overcome his unhappiness. I find it moving and uplifting. Musically it is extremely engaging with a lot more instrumental texture and variety than is typical with electronic music. Recommended to fans of Lorde.