Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Making Mirrors" by Gotye, Review

Review originally posted here.

Belgian-born Aussie Gotye (born Wouter de Backer), started his music career as the drummer of Downstares, a band formed with three of his friends during high school.  When his band broke up he started sampling old records as a musical outlet. I almost think that this is truly what makes him a great artist. He takes something old, odd, or even commonplace, and reforms it into something completely new and fresh.

I liked Gotye before I knew who he was. I first heard his work when "Learnalilgivinanlovin" was included on 2009's Whip It soundtrack. His span of musical style between that and Making Mirrors is such that I didn't even make the connection until noting the name. "Hey, that sounds familiar..." Yep, it was him again.

He classifies his music as alt-pop, but he really kind of defies genre. Thanks to the sampling that got him started as a solo artist, several of the tracks on Making Mirrors will give you the best kind of musical déjà vu. On "I Feel Better" I can hear snippets of Carole King; the beginning of "In Your Light" reminds me of Paul Simon's guitar sound.  "State of the Art" sounds like a cross between snythpop, electronica, and a bossa nova. It sounds so sweet and simple, but "Somebody That I Used to Know" (feat. Kimbra) has a great quirky and soulful quality about it that I just love. 

The lyrics are great. They alternate between the profound, the playful and the painful. The most lighthearted lyrics on the album are on "State of the Art" where we get to hear Gotye's loving reverence for his Lowery Cotillion D-575, a home organ gifted to him by his parents, which is featured prominently on the track.  Lyrically, Eyes Wide Open is a post-apocalyptic musical call, entreating the listener to rethink the values we've come to consider as central to our existence, asking that people realize what they're doing before it's too late. "Somebody That I Used to Know" (feat. Kimbra) is a heartfelt break-up song that just makes you want to listen to it over and over again and mourn the loss of the relationship with them.

Overall, the album is fresh, deep, and innovative. He combines strong, mellow vocals a la James Taylor with the kind of creativity and insight we've come to associate with incredible freewheeling artists like Imogen Heap. Gotye is what I've been waiting for in a world where the majority of chart toppers lack substance, musically and lyrically.
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