PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Louise Goffin: Sometimes a Circle

Adrien Begrand

Louise Goffin

Sometimes a Circle

Label: Dreamworks
US Release Date: 2002-02-09

It can't be easy trying to establish yourself as a singer/songwriter when you're a child of a well-known musician, let alone two well known musicians, so it's understandable that it has taken Louise Goffin a while to find her own voice. The daughter of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Louise Goffin's new release, her first in nearly 14 years, is the latest in an increasingly lengthening line of albums by children of famous musicians, and it had to be a daunting task to step out of the shadow of her illustrious parents. Her mom made Tapestry, for crying out loud, and don't get me started on the legendary King-Goffin songwriting partnership. While few have managed to match their parents' fame with commercial success of their own, Goffin's new CD Sometimes a Circle, despite a couple of lukewarm moments, shows she's more than ready to emerge as a big-time talent.

The musical arrangements on Sometimes a Circle sound a bit like Jon Brion's work on Fiona Apple's albums, but minus Ms. Apple's neuroses, with Goffin's girlish voice (think Juliana Hatfield) masking the depth of her lyrics. It doesn't hurt that Goffin is married to producer Greg Wells, whose earlier producer credits includes Rufus Wainright, as well as Amy Correia's much underrated debut album from a couple years ago. At first, I didn't know what to make of Sometimes a Circle, but after several listens, it grew on me in a big way. Anyone who enjoyed Correia's album (if you did, congratulate yourself for having such good taste) should thoroughly enjoy this one.

Goffin describes her album as "a humorous look at the absurdity of modern life," which perfectly encapsulates the theme of the record. The CD's catchy title track is the centerpiece of the whole thing, in which, over an infectious hip-hop beat, Goffin describes several scenarios about desperate people living desperate lives, unable to escape, as if living a real-life tape loop. She muses on the cold, hard fact we all learn, how what we think is really important to us (like, say, writing record reviews?) sometimes just doesn't make any sense: "There's a lot going on, but it all adds up to nothing / Sometimes a Circle feels like a direction."

Equally enjoyable is "Instant Photo", a pastiche of modern pop, samples, loops, and a nifty, bluesy slide guitar riff, where Goffin expresses her wariness of excess fame and all its trappings, singing, "Making money is a waste of money honey / Making a living don't make a life." The piano-driven "I Can't Remember Why" is a lovely pop tune, one of those songs that strikes you as a potential hit, a fine combination of lyrical smarts and a memorable hook. The light latin influence on "Sleep With Me Instead" (featuring the songwriting help of Go-Go Charlotte Caffey) goes perfectly with Goffin's coquettish tale of an attempted seduction of a friend ("It's so fun to be your friend / Since she threw you out again"). "What If I Were Talking to Me" has a slinky, funky, descending bass riff that carries the song, while "Only Water" returns to guitar-folk basics and lilting harmonies. A cynic would say that "Saved by the Bell" is the usual girly piano ballad that Norah Jones will have us all even more sick of by the end of the year, but here, Goffin makes it work, with its gentle melody and her restrained performance.

The album hits a minor speed bump two-thirds of the way through, as three of its last five songs don't quite live up to the rest. They're not repulsive by any means, but "Just Bone and Breath", "Clicking to the Next Slide", and the brilliantly titled "What a Waste of a Perfectly Good Hotel Room" seem to lack the hooks the other songs possess. Lyrically, though, Goffin is nonetheless terrific, especially on "Clicking to the Next Slide", where she scores some points singing about a found View-Master (one of the coolest toys, ever), but lyrics are only half of the song (some might argue even less), and without a melody that grabs you, you're not left with much.

Best of all the tracks, though, is the lush "Light in Your Eyes", a song sounding so comfortably familiar, yet completely original, that it will have some listeners scrambling to their Burt Bacharach box sets, looking for the song they think Goffin has covered. Smooth, romantic, and above all, comfy, this song easily holds up against both Bacharach's, and Carole King's, output, which is no small feat. Contrarily, Sometimes a Circle closes on a brooding note on the John Parish collaboration "Quiet Anesthesia", Goffin's own recollection of her father's falling ill. Over spare guitar accompaniment and creepy organ, Goffin is at her most personal, as she sings, "I watched you my whole life / Giving in to myth of guilt / When all you did was stay up late / Dipping oreo's into milk." It's an unsettling way to end an album, concluding in a similar vein as Goldfrapp's Felt Mountain does, but it works. Life ain't always perfect, Goffin explains, and it sometimes takes an illness of a loved one to put things into proper perspective, which brings us back to the album's central theme.

Frankly, I'm surprised I wound up liking Sometimes a Circle more than I originally did. You have to give this album some time; plunk it in your CD player for a few days, and it'll eventually get its hooks in you. You'll soon realize we have a pretty darn talented songwriter amongst us, one who's smart, personal, and unpretentious, and in a time where pop music is more empty and soulless than it has ever been, that's really saying something. Mom and Dad should be very proud.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.