Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gotye. Say it with me: "Go-te-yae"

Yes, Gotye; it's not a typo (more on him later). As a back drop to this post, and my slacking in that department, my younger sister, Megan, must be credited in alerting me to Gotye's new release.  She sent me a message telling me to check out his new song "Someone That I Used To Know."  Actually what she said was, 'hey, this guy makes weird music and you like weird music, therefore A + B = You will like this song/artist' (paraphrasing but that was the gist).  She knows me well.  I was not aware of Gotye's new album, but knew of his release from 2006 Like Drawing Blood and its main single "Hearts a Mess" (an incredible song). So thanks Meg for telling me about this new release.

The new album, Making Mirrors, was released in 2011 at various times depending on location (iTunes says December 2011 but I understand it was released in June and July in Europe and Australia/NZ) and it's truly a Great (capital "G") album that is fun to listen to and keeps you guessing.  No, he is not another dup-step DJ (I promised I wouldn't), but this Belgian born Australian does bring to the table a fair share of electronic components to his music...but it's only a small portion of what he does.  Gotye is the stage name of Wouter De Bachner (Walter in Wally really)...plenty more on Google on how he went from Wouter-to-Walter-to-Wally-to-Goyte, but its origin is French-based (so who really cares...back to the music).  If you had to categorized his music, i think indie-alt or progressive rock with electronic aspects (mainly through synthesizers) would cover it generally. But labeling is dangerous and he is the proof.  There are very few tracks that stick to the same format (which is a negative if you only like one of his many formats).  The first 3 tracks tell you right out of the gate that this album is nothing ordinary, from his airy ambient intro track, "Making Mirrors," followed by the almost 70's style (Beck-ish) rock and roll track, "Easy Way Out," to his big single on the album, "Someone That I Used To Know."  This track can best tie his old album to his current work, and is in a similar vein to "Hearts a Mess" from Gotye's first album Like Drawing Blood, in its use of broad varieties of instruments ranging from acoustic guitar, xylophone, cello, brushed snare drums, and electronic/synth effects.  A beautiful (break-up) song only improved by the lovely voice of Kimbra, a New Zealand singer/songwriter. Truly a great track.

Off hand I can't think of a comparable compilation of songs that are each sooo different from each other but fit so well on one album.  He has the obligatory radio ready singles, "Someone That I Used to Know" and "Eyes Wide Open" (not a huge favorite of mine) that are catchy and can stand alone.  Huddled around these tracks; however, are unique and varying, almost dorky but endearing, tracks that honestly took a solid 2 times to listen to to really enjoy and get into.  Maybe that wouldn't make the best marketing pitch, but these "secondary tracks" make the album.  Yes, I would put this album in the category of addictive after a 2 start to finish listens (it's not a long album and trust me, if you found this Blog and you are reading it up to this thinks you have some time on yo' hands, so do it and don't cherry pick off this album for your own musical health) improves with each listen...promise.

There's a Bj√∂rk like quality in "Smoke and Mirrors" that reminds of her track "Human Behavior"...probably from the drums/bongos, use of snares and use of horns (or electronic versions of horns).  Then there's the 60ish-Four Tops styled "I Feel Better".  Wasn't a huge fan of this track at first, but it's catchy.  There is a bit of an 80's revival woven into some of the tracks throughout the album.  The use of synthesizers makes it almost unavoidable (especially the way he does it), but well done.  He's not the only one to have done this recently, Bon Iver did it on its new disc in a track called "Beth/Rest".

A particularly interesting song is the reggae/down tempo ska-ish styled song called "State of the Art".  The voice is on distortion or "auto-tune" to sound almost robotic, but the best part of this song, is how the lyrics play off of the music (or vice-a-versa).  It's almost comical once you figure out what he's talking about.  Here's a quick summary: He purchases a "Lowry Cotillion model D-575" (an 80's organ and synthesizer) and is telling all about its features, from the "genie bass" button to the "banjo repeat" function and how amazing it is....then he invites his neighbors over to dance to the "bossonova beat" and play the "magic swing piano" setting for some truly amazing entertainment (so much so that he throws his TV out).  As he's naming all of the Cotillion's functions, the song then does what he's described musically (i.e. when he says "I put the 'genie bass' on" the song starts to actually play the genie bass from the Cotillion).  I am fairly certain that he actually used a real Lowry Cotillion for all parts of the song (its listed as one of the instruments he played on the CD...actually the only one).  Granted, the whole track is a bit silly, but musically amazing (again, when you consider what he used to play the music...) and a favorite track of mine.  Just for fun, this is a Lowry Catillion model D-575:

I don't dislike a single track, which is something I usually never say.  The album rounds out the end with a more melancholy tone and electronic sounding tracks, some with almost David Gray like rhythms that Gotye has become popular for, like "Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching" and "Bronte" both of which are in my top 5 for this album.

SOOO, if you have a musically adventurous bone in your body, I truly think you will enjoy this album.

Top 5 Songs from Making Mirrors (in no particular order):

  • Someone That I Used to Know
  •  Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching
  •  Bronte
  • Giving Me a Chance
  • State of the Art

"Join me next time when" I plan to talk about an album that I've been waiting to drop for years (I can almost feel your anticipation)....


  1. So, the first time I heard Someone That I Used to Know I thought "yeah I can totally get behind this, I need to look him up." and then BAM a few days later I heard it on the DC equivalent of KC 101. Now, that doesn't immediately turn me off from a song...okay, it kind of does. Sometimes listening to a great song sandwiched between Taylor Swift and the Biebster makes you wonder about the greatness of the song. And it makes ME wonder how good an album can be when one song by an almost complete unknown artist is so clearly radio ready. Music Snobbery? Absofreakinglutely.

    So, I preemptively gave up on Gotye. But now I'm thinking maybe I'll give him a (first) second chance. Thanks for the intruiging write up, Greg.

  2. F U JetBlue!! This was their "featured song" the week I chose to visit the west coast. Every landing/take-off before the pre/post flight tutorials this video would be showcased on every channel...ON REPEAT!!
    The first two or three times I was totally digging it...the song more than the video. If the naked painted chick ever turned around I would have probably been more intrigued. However, one can only handle this song in moderation and by moderation I mean once a weekend at best. Anything more would be (hmm)uncomfortable? JetBlue (knowingly or not) has defined a new form of social torture!
    Anyways, my point is we all know radio kills good music but now apparently there is an accomplice to the crime and their name is JetBlue.