by Janine Donnelly
Recently released FOXTROTT’s debut album, A Taller Us, is officially a breath of fresh air. Although Marie-Hélène Delorme, aka Foxtrott, hones her skills from her love of everything from reggae to indie – these genres aren’t quite obvious on the record. However, it’s clear that her broad taste has given her an extra flair when it comes to her approach in composition and structure. “Driven” is the opening track and it’s here her experimental approach can be heard in its rhythmical irregularity. It flirts with world beat. Her sweet voice, reminiscent of La Roux, is complimentary to the slight industrial sound of “Driven”. The tone of the album is most definitely set with this track. Delorme has spoken about her desire to strike a perfect balance with rhythm and frequencies on this record, and it’s with “Beyond Our Means” that she achieves this. The programmed, minimalistic beat allows her melodies and ranging synth frequencies to shine on this track. “Shields” ups the level of pop on the album with an extremely catchy chorus that skates over a choppy sounding synth. If you didn’t know where FOXTROTT was born you could easily mistake this track for a Scandinavian pop hit. Lykkie Li digs this song, I’m sure of that.
By the time “Untake Me” gets to your ears, A Taller Us is catapulted into diversity. With a reggae beat and rhythm, this song is the result of a carefully planned rap, hip-hop, reggae and pop inspired concoction. Delorme sings: “Why don’t you just let it pour? Let it pour!” – And she does. “Mountains Rose Again” is another example of keeping things balanced in a song. The syncopated beats in this track do not drown out Delorme’s sweet melody. The child-like clapping rhythm keeps the song ticking along. The song doesn’t exactly go anywhere though (it’s an above average filler track, but a good one at that).
“Gated” is a sultry, slower song. Delorme almost whispers her way through this one, with the usual minimal beats in the back. This sets the album to chill mode. Perfect timing for the following song “Brother” to kick things off again. Think warm beats, dancefloor synths, catchy melody, backing singers, build-ups, come-downs…this song has it all. As I listen to this song and type, “Colors” is now my favourite song on the album. The bassy synth, that slowly gets dirtier, arpeggiates and walks its way through the song like Christopher Walken. Delorme’s vocals have never been sexier. This song is going to be on a lot of playlists in 2016. Although there is a range of rhythm and styles on A Taller Us, there is one common theme – and that’s synth and vocals. They are the stars of the album. “Patience” is a great example of that. In this track, the synth’s ascending, scaling melody is something we’ve heard before, but it’s ok…Delorme is great. She does whatever she wants.
Things get darker with “Shaky Hands”. Take Delorme’s vocals out of this song (not that you need to) and replace it with a 90’s rap star and you’ll think both voices work. This album is a crowd pleaser. It’s a mix-bag of genres. FOXTROTT’s album, of course, doesn’t end on a subtle note. “Heads Under Water” sparks off with electronic, pulsating notes. Dark lyrics, NIN style drum beats, changing rhythms, a husky voice, and reverberating synths that go as high as the ceiling. This song is now one of my favourites off the album.
If FOXTROTT wanted balance in this album she succeeded. Everything on this album subtly shows where it needs to, and shines were it must. Nothing is overpowering, but the album, as a whole, is powerful. I didn’t expect to like the album as much as I did, but I can honestly say if you don’t listen to it…you’re losing out. Top marks.