They’ve got a song in a Mitsubishi commercial, draw too frequent comparisons to Air, and have a direct vocal descendant of Billie Holiday. That should pretty much cover it for Télépopmusik.
But it would be a discredit to stop there withAngel Milk, the second full-length from this French trio-with-guests. The core group of Stephan Haeri, Fabrice Dumint, and Christopher Hetier provide the compositions, running from house to chill-out to neo-jazz (one day I’ll learn to talk about these styles without the ridiculous terms). The group gears its music less for dancing and more for the bookends of a night out. The atmospheres and grooves work well for a pre-party cocktail or an after-club unwinding.
Of course, for those of us who can’t live that life, the music also works well in the office.
Above the album’s solid music, vocalist Angela McCluskey (that Holiday grandkid) steals the show. Her nasally voice provides the most drawing moments of Angel Milk, and once she has a listener’s attention, she holds it with a powerful, moving delivery. Her four tracks on this album should be released as an EP, and her solo record sales should go up if anyone is listening.
Though none of McCluskey’s tracks are weak, “Love’s Almighty” makes the strongest case. After a brief stretch of vapid sound and some low-volume talking, the song picks up with some crooner strings and McCluskey begins her display of blue-lit stage emanations. I don’t care what she’s saying, I’m taken in, and allowed to rest on the lounge pillows that Télépopmusik has created for just such a situation.
“Don’t Look Back” provides a more modern vehicle for the singer (note: avoid yet another use of “chanteuse”). The blips and bloops sound as if they’re from one of those rainy, wordless commercials that make you nod off before your show comes back on. Fortunately the beat and strings shift just enough to keep you awake for the 14 songs that follow this album- (but not eye-) opener.
Not all the vocalists fare as well as McCluskey. Mau, of the Dirty Beatniks, provides semi-rapped, semi-sung parts that don’t quite detract, but don’t add anything either. His tracks would probably be just as good (or better) without his vocals. “Hollywood on My Toothpaste” develops a fine relaxed groove…and then Mau starts. It’s not Hollywood; it’s a soundtrack for an artsy film that will never get released.
Fortunately Deborah Anderson provides a balance for Mau. Her vocals don’t intrigue the way McCluskey’s do, but they do develop the songs that feature her. The production of her voice, especially the multi-tracking on “Stop Running Away”, demonstrates how a good club vocal can be used as a lead instrument. It’s not her singing so much as the musicality of the line that attracts on this number.
That kind of work does make Télépopmusik a noteworthy act, but on Angel Milk it sustains only the loveliness, not the captivation, promised on a few of the tracks. The easiest solution for the core trio would be to drop Mau as a featured artist. The music’s not flawless, but it serves its role as come-down music quite nicely.
Just so the group doesn’t continue to come down from its (Mitsubishi) commercial peak.