FOXTROTT stands on stage at Pop Montreal 2013, bobbing her head, with eyes closed in the face of the darkness before her, knowing that in seconds the lights will reveal her guests. Marie-Helene Delorme’s guts begin telling her to sing, so she does, embodying the grim, ghostly sound of the Smiths.
“Take me out tonight…”
The electronics in the background are incredibly bare-boned when compared to the original that she is covering. Substituting Morrissey’s baritone vocals for one familiar at poetry gatherings, the Montreal singer-songwriter attempts to find her ground with the sound that she would find comfort in with a further release. It would be called A Taller Us, and, while it does have unusual bearing on instrumentation–a strong point some can consider–the approach of using a consistent sound throughout the record allows for arguments relating to padding and forgettable content.
FOXTROTT’s sound is one that highlights the importance of junkyard percussion, R&B flows, and a bass that, while near-ubiquitous, does not truly drown the stripped electronic beats. Her sound is settled within an atmospheric jungle, one where dance is erratic and easily comfortable to get into. Chairlift has a similar way of walking to work, with a musicality that screams for steps to be syncopated in the midst of instrumentation that is follows equally-spaced notation. An approach to vocals might have been inspired by art rock outfits, one particular being Calgary’s Braids. These possible influences are unlike appendages that promise a different sound when trying to pop up from a sea of electronic acts. However, it is in the execution of all parts that Delorme has trouble with. While she has proper intentions to make her audience dance in a non-contrived way, her album lingers for too long, utilizing elements that allow listeners to wonder whether the A Taller Us has repeated itself.
“Driven” encapsulates an aesthetic of a tribe finding their home within the urban jungles. When the percussive junk is being struck, the tribes cross through traffic lights like art. It is a song that champions impromptu dances without employing the awkward beats of LCD Soundsystem or the powerful Daft Punk. “Beyond Our Means” uses electronic one-twos in a way that complements FOXTROTT’s vocal energy, while simultaneously finding a bass that is almost sludgy, yet appropriate. “Shields” takes on very lackluster pop sensibilities with regard to the polyphonic texture in verses. While the bass squelches to gain its attention, the product leaves much to be desired originality-wise.
“Untake Me” is a breather from the pop interruption. When Delorme says “I dare you”, with pots and pans booming along a red laser bass, she lights up and feels comfortable with the range of her pitch, one with a high not to be jealous over. “Mountains Rose Again” uses careful vocal pauses while the offensively brittle and skeletal beat goes over the background. Her electronic sound becomes the kind of default cellphone ringtones, an unflattering choice. “Brother” allows for hoots to replace the small beats. Unfortunately, its structural approach to writing its R&B resembles tracks from the blob that is every other simple band in the electronic scene.
“Colors” is surprisingly serious in spite of its wonky beat. It is sadly the point in the record where listeners feel the need to take a break, even with the song’s pace-changing trip-hop beat. Its climax tries to bear its skin, utilizing what the song has to make a stand, but not producing anything worthwhile. It does not earn its length. “Patience” would be completely generic without the sounds of scraping glass and the fused bass-drum combination. “Shaky Hands” properly uses a brass and a host of percussive elements to create a booming sound within a small room. It allows for bob heads, even if the dancing had died long ago. Closer “Heads Under Water” demonstrates a vicious personality too late. When Delorme sings “I know you’re a bleeder”, she not only sends chills down the spine, but also gains attentions that were lost long ago. The electrified beat that shocks the bass prepares one for another dance that does not pander to typical electronic buzzwords employed in lyrics. Of course, lyrics never were a strong point in A Taller Us either.
It is clear that bare-boned electronics is what FOXTROTT is going for. When she transforms “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, she successfully accomplishes the feat of making the Smiths track more appealing. That said, cover tracks won’t lead to being exceptional. There is still a long way to go for Delorme. She can make it out of the formless blob that is regular electronic fare and move to bigger things, but not with A Taller Us.