It is so tempting to review this just as the “album that sounds like a cabaret soundtrack”, but that would be terribly unfair. The truth is that this does actually feels like that to some extent, and sadly people tend to dismiss it because of that, and is a shame because once you get past that first impression there’s a deep, powerful and mind-blowing experience.
This experience will probably differ from almost anything that you’ve listened before, and as such there is a chance that you won’t get the most out of it on the first attempt. There is a certain circus-like feel in the air at moments, but not a cheap and careless sensation, it is more like a theatrical, nearing magical category. And when it is not being theatrical it feels like a futuristic rendition of some late 19th century, early 20th century glamorous, chic cabaret.
The beauty of this does not lay on how good reminiscent of past eras it is, but for what it is once you stop paying attention to what it sounds like. What Goldfrapp did here is basically wrap brilliant songs around not so common elements and deliver it in a way that will caught off-guard (in a good way) anyone who is willing to invest a little time discovering new ways to understand music.
Felt Mountain wouldn’t be even half as good as it is without the absolute spot on vocals by Alison Goldfrapp of course, it adapts and feels natural in every situation. A detail I noticed is that while at first your attention is on the atmosphere that the music creates, once the novelty starts to wear off you begin to fully appreciate how good the combination of the music and her voice is, and then the exact opposite starts to happen: you end up paying attention almost exclusively to her voice.
A common subject I see every now and then is why Goldfrapp keeps morphing with every new release, and listening to Felt Mountain from start to finish once again for the sake of writing this review I suddenly understood why there was never something that could be truly regarded as the follow-up for it: in order to be considered unique, there must be only one. Years later Goldfrapp would prove us all that she can reinvent herself time after time with no apparent effort, and while I used to be one of those asking for more in the lines of Felt Mountain, is evident that she has moved on to explore different styles and attitudes, and so should we.
Released 11 years ago (as of the time I’m writing this), we’ve already had the chance to listen to 3 more albums by Goldfrapp, and we already know how diverse and morphing-prone Alison Goldfrapp is. This however, truly defies time and stays a classic trip hop album for those just starting to explore the genre.