1749 EP finds Lemaitre approaching the top of their pop-slinging game
I’ll admit, I took on this review of Norwegian electronic duo, Lemaitre, mostly because of my fascination with Norwegian culture -- and by Norwegian culture, I mean my obsession with Karl Ove Knausgaard. First putting on their record, I imagined myself in the shoes of an aging Bergen music critic, (roughly modeled on KOK-as-youth, who himself wrote record reviews) surveying the Norwegian scene. But alas, the guise was ultimately unfit for approaching Lemaitre, a group who recently emigrated from Norway to LA, of all not-Norway places, and whose music occupies an otherwise borderless region of pop music. Consolation prize: they occupy it really well.
Lemaitre’s Relativity trilogy, three EPs released in 2012-2013, contained some stellar samples of the early bedroom-producer revolution. They were glitchy pop songs with funky guitar hooks and tingly, dubstep breakdowns that felt like they were bursting at the seams. Singularity, their first release on a label, (Astralwerks), opened up their auteur command of pop, trading their Star Slinger, in-the-box beatsmith role for tighter, poppier orchestrations. Their present vocals solidified over big piano funk and analog-sounding drums. Since then, they’ve only streamlined their sound.
1749 EP finds Lemaitre approaching the top of their game. The record was made in, and named after, their pad in LA. Their promo video for the record chronicles their last year of life spent in process -- building the place out and inviting musicians over to track. There is a relaxed balance of both experimentation and groundedness across the five tracks. Even more than on Singularity, they are starting to approximate the effortless cool of their untouchable references, like Justice, Daft Punk and, yes, Phoenix (although it just might be my wishful thinking that their sound begins to approach indie rock.) The songs are less hip, but the well-timed lifts and breathable grooves bring the sounds closer and closer to that level of pop.
The trouble with developing a sound in the EP format, while also yielding to the no doubt intense pressure to grapple for singles, is the final result is bound to be somewhat disjointed. The collective sound of 1749, besides the success of individual tracks, is not immediately recognizable. There’s a feeling that it could go once more through the sifter. Three of the tracks feature guest vocalists, but I find the sound most inviting when it’s just Lemaitre. Maybe it’s because their lyrics have that same malapropic charm of a great Phoenix lyric. On “Day Two” he sings, “waking up in the shoes, do a dance to the blues, nothing good ever comes to those who snooze.” Slightly less impressionistic than Phoenix’s “mint julep testosterone” (“Trying to Be Cool”), but just as loveable.
In the spirit of the Extended Player, so far Lemaitre’s exclusive release format, I’ll keep this short. I hope in the future, the boys drop a long player worthy of twice the review. Something tells me they’ve got it up their sleeve.