Album: Röyksopp – “Senior” (2010)

I decided to stray a little from my usual album review format for this album, mostly because it just doesn’t feel like THAT sort of album. It wasn’t really intended to hit the commercial sweet spots that “Melody AM” and “The Understanding” did.

royksopp seniorI feel like I should have given Röyksopp a bit more time. I mean I have really LOVED some of their more accessible moments like breakthrough single “Poor Leno” and the amazing “Only this moment”.

Of course you might imagine I’m a bit partial to Nordic dance music, so I thought it was a good time to give “Senior” a go, having loved their recent single “Running to the sea”, hopefully a sign of a great album in the works.

A more subdued and downbeat effort, contrasting 2009’s companion album “Junior”, this isn’t an album for uptempo moments.

Opener “…and the forest began to sing” is a lovely waltzy intro, but is over all too fast, not really blending with “Tricky Two“. The tempo is there, but there’s little going on as Röyskopp set the pace and little else. Over the track’s 8 minute runtime, there is a bit of variety, but it feels a bit dated. It reminds me a bit of Jean Michel Jarre from the 80s, or similar electro mood music. Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t feel like it’s really gone anywhere, even when the tempo maxes out halfway though.

The alcoholic” takes a break after that, with a much more recognisable face of Röyskopp. It’s an extended loop of a melodic synth line, repeated while the sounds are tweaked and enhanced each iteration. It develops nicely before taking a turn towards nature for the latter half. Lots of birdsong, rainstorms, it’s got a nice feel to it.

Without much fanfare, “Senior Living” mixes old-school samples with some electric guitar and atmosphere. Not completely my thing but it’s quite a nice background. “The drug” attempts to keep it more modern with a memorable repeated musical phrase. It’s pretty basic stuff though, and the dance beat that develops around it barely strays away from just being ordinary. That squeaking industrial feedback thing doesn’t help much either.

Forsaken cowboy” continues in much the same vein, though its title prepares us for a slightly more acoustic-guitar themed affair. But really it feels like the same little phrases looped over and over. There is some nice instrumentation here – in fact it’s only really now that I realise how few voices I’ve heard so far. But vocals are restricted purely to new-agey atmospheric chanting.

I find it hard to hear “The Fear” without thinking of the them to “The Godfather”. I know it’s just that tiny little sample, but what can you do? The ponderous beat continues despite a lovely intro showing the best of how Röyskopp can paint interesting and expansive soundscapes. This perhaps feels like the closest I’ve heard to the music I associate most with them. There’s little more to it than that, but still a bit of a standout, if that concept even makes sense on a mood album like this.

However, after that, “Coming home” doesn’t really do much to interest me. It sounds more like one of Air’s less stimulating moments, with some lite electronica and grand swirling atmospherics. I’m a bit hit-and-miss with Air, and in this case it’s not doing a lot for me. Which leaves us with one last track (or two… there’s a stowaway in that 12-minute track).

Unfortunately “A long long way” doesn’t have much to bring to (or close) the party. Largely it’s that sparse electronic swirl, might as well have whale song on it, if feels like the soundtrack to a New Age crystal shop or something. While I feel the album has fizzled out after these final 4 minutes, hidden track “The Final Day” frightens the crap out of me. It takes its time, diverting through moody and creepy electronica with little to latch on to. But then there are some horrible distorted cackles that always leave me a little unsettled. Why finish an album with a ghost story? It would make a good soundtrack I’m sure, but for general listening purposes I’m not really feeling this.

So a bit of a mixed bag really, and certainly a disappointment for anyone expecting a single to play on the radio. I mean that’s not to say that Röyksopp are known for (or try to make) big commercial albums, but even from their canon it’s quite difficult to warm to. I’m not sure I even managed it. That said, I know they have potential for that sort of thing again, I’ll just have to bide my time.

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