Album Reviews

Singtank – Ceremonies

(Parlophone) UK release date: 22 September 2014

singtank-ceremonies France, according to a certain strain of popular English perception, has offered little in the way of memorable, sustainable musical acts bar Serge Gainsbourg, Air and of course Daft Punk. But the scene across the English Channel continues to bubble under the surface, cult acts burgeoning in their homeland yet ultimately failing to become more recognised worldwide.

Singtank are doing their best to challenge all that. A brother/sister duo hailing from Paris, Joséphine de la Baume (AKA Mrs Mark Ronson) and sibling Alexandre set off on their musical journey in 2012 with captivating debut In Wonder. Full of hook laden pop catchiness, the debut traversed its way through a number of styles; it possessed some cracking tunes but despite some notable praise from well established quarters, it managed to trundle under most radars.

Ceremonies is no different in the eclecticism respect, Alexandre declaring that “I’m always frustrated with records where all the songs sound the same”. Opener Here We Go Again is catchy pop perfection, a tambourine beat and gentle synths create a slow moving backdrop of beauty, Alexandre’s soulful vocal covering the verses before his sister sings a lush, bewitching chorus given extra impetus by a powerful, doomy bass synth.

Frida recalls French pop acts of old but betters them all with a delightfully plinky synth melody that may sound ever so vaguely familiar to New Order fans perhaps, yet the track is mesmerizingly intoxicating and fresh as is the minimal, enchanting cover of Suspicious Minds. Most famous for being one of Elvis Presley’s biggest hits, the song is also remembered by the ‘80s music generation for the brilliant version by Fine Young Cannibals and it’s to Singtank’s credit that they pull off such a delightful effort that holds its own with other more famous versions.

UB40 are recalled for the reggae inspired single Can You Hear Me, another big song that sees an infectious, uplifting chorus used to full effect alongside a background piano riff that again revokes a long forgotten memory, a synth drenched outro completing another pop gem this time aided by a touch of Ronson magic. We Are is different again, based around a simple drum loop, pounding bass and swirling synths it’s another massive highlight of an outstanding run of tracks. Tête Brûlée then bounds along to an incessant bass and shimmering synths, the catchy chorus recalling the poppier side of The New Pornographers, intertwining male/female vocals blending sublimely.

FOMO apparently depicts the urban loneliness and digital dependence so many now rely on, its chorus skipping along merrily before a surprising but thankfully short ‘rap’ by Joséphine breaks up the fun, a synth melody in the style of Danger Mouse taking the song to its climax alongside another insanely catchy organ riff. Looking For My Sister recalls the ‘60s with its familiar verses but the chorus this time is a little plain. The minute long piano accompanied ode Old Tunes is pretty but doesn’t have time to go anywhere whilst the gentle and minimalist La Vie En Octets is the only dead giveaway that the duo are French, being the only track sung completely in their native tongue.

Coming Down is a moody, organ backed atmospheric effort that again blends the two vocals brilliantly. When sounds familiar once again as a quietly confident synth melody stirs distant memories for more atmosphere before the piano led dreamy ballad Ursus completes the collection in the style of The Wonderstuff’s Erica Nockalls from her 2013 debut Imminent Room.

Whilst the pop genius of the first half of the album is not replicated by much of the second half, it is even more intriguing as Alexandre seems to have a point about albums sounding the same all the way through. You’ll find yourself returning to the pop mastery of the early songs time and again but a different, more sombre mood is likely to warrant repeated plays of the majority of the more melancholy ‘second side’. From start to finish, whichever style tickles your fancy, you will undoubtedly be hooked at some point.

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More on Singtank
Singtank – Ceremonies
Singtank – In Wonder