The kind of intriguing ‘oddness’ the likes of Florence Welch strain and wheeze for.
Chris Roberts 2011-11-10
This French-Finnish duo – pronounced The "Dough", thanks to that slashed O, the reviewer’s typing nightmare – met in 2005 while working on music for films and ballets. Their brand of indie-pop will find adjectives like ‘quirky’ and ‘eccentric’ sticking to it like burrs.
Yet there’s real personality and soul underneath the ‘kooky’ dressing, not least in the voice and preoccupations of Olivia Merilahti. While the visual transformation in recent years of the front-woman from shy brunette to shape-throwing, glam-radiating redhead might suggest a managed push for stardom, it’s probably down to the confidence induced by their 2008 debut album, A Mouthful, becoming the first number one album in France by a French act singing in English. They’re now stadium-big at home and festival-friendly worldwide, their artful videos delivering as much enigma as their songs offer vibrant eclecticism.
An easy genre-tag is impossible, as this second album – tipped to wow Britain – leaps between hip hop and folk, rock and glitches. Strings, horns, chants and electronica interweave seamlessly. Merilahti’s vocals soar from little-girl-lost to wicked-witch with relish and power. Inevitably, Björk comparisons will pop up, but in fact the music’s weird mobility and range is closer to The Sugarcubes’ first two albums. Her multi-instrumentalist colleague Dan Levy hovers in the background, behind her stage-centre, Lana Del Rey charisma, but from the moment opener Dust It Off lurches from dreamy lullaby to disruptive trip-hop, it’s clear there’s a vivid collaboration of restless talents here.
If Gonna Be Sick! is the funkiest song about vomiting you’ll ever hear (sometimes it seems the lyrics have lost something in translation, but gained an element of eerie surrealism as a trade-off), The Wicked and the Blind is by contrast a dark shuffle of psychedelic rhythm and plaintive pining, as much Fever Ray as The Naked and Famous. Too Insistent bemoans a stalker with a catchy blend of charm and fury, while Bohemian Dances builds beautifully from stuttering techno to neo-tribal stomp.
Truly impressive, The Dø gracefully pull off the kind of intriguing ‘oddness’ the likes of Florence Welch strain and wheeze for, and with better tunes. Paris is lighting a match.