Album Reviews

Laetitia Sadier – Rooting For Love

(Duophonic) UK release date: 23 February 2024

Lyrical truths come to light on the Stereolab singer’s first solo album in seven years, amid intricate melodic moves and dense harmonic shifts

Laetitia Sadier - Rooting For Love Stereolab, and their lead singer Laetitia Sadier, have been a reassuring and instantly recognisable presence in the alternative pop music firmament for nearly 35 years, providing positive energy and originality at every turn. More recently we have been able to see the extent of their influence through acts such as Deerhunter and Vanishing Twin, a sign their legacy will be a lasting one. So what drove Laetitia Sadier to break cover and issue her first solo album in seven years?

The state of the world today appears to be the main factor, a subject she tackles immediately in Who + What. Here, to quote the extensive press release, she issues “a call for a collective striving for Gnosis – an inquisitive outlook that will lend clues to the traumatized civilizations of Earth, allowing us to evolve away from millennia of alienation and suffering and towards the achievability of healing”.

That sentence is a lot to take in, and if you had to read it several times, be assured that the music expresses exactly what Sadier wants it to, and on a level that communicates with the active and the passive listener. For a start, she still has the most distinctive voice, a sonorous instrument acting like the most supportive musical therapist. It underpins the album, offering deep shades of blue and purple, while the rich instrumentation around provides many of the other colours of the rainbow. Who + What alone features keyboards, guitar, bass, trombone, vibraphone and zither – all supported by a fulsome drum track. Sadier’s healing is clearly of the fully textured variety.

As the album develops, we are comforted by the familiar but challenged by some of Sadier’s observations and progressive harmonies. New Moon starts with those lovely crunchy guitar harmonies we associate with Sadier, blossoming into a beautiful song. Actress has some stern calls to arms but softens when the funkier episodes kick in. The starry eyed La Nageuse Nue (The Naked Swimmer) promises nocturnal freedom, while The Inner Smile is great – not just Sadier’s resonant vocal but the block organ chords that kick in.

The most striking statement is left until last, the remarkable Cloud 6. Here we enter a different musical room, one of dappled minimalism where Sadier emerges to sing of how “the world renounces its liberty, because it is in fear”. Sonorous brass and fuzzy atmospherics dress the music as the clamour of wordless voices grows louder, an upward swell of consonant harmony. “I’m not fucking around, you’re halfway dead!” exclaims the singer. The music is suddenly extinguished, leaving her warning on the air, an unexpected final twist to an album replete with musical turns.

In the past there has not been much of a discernible difference between a Stereolab album and a Laetitia Sadier album, so distinctive is her voice – but here the frank communication and urgency of her delivery sets Rooting For Love apart. The more you spend time with it, the more musical and lyrical truths come to light – and the more you can appreciate the intricate melodic moves, the dense harmonic shifts. Most importantly, Sadier succeeds in her aim, offering a genuine musical antidote to the cultural scars and traumas we carry from recent years.

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