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Velocifero

I want to talk about Ladytron today! Last time I talked about them, I talked about my least favorite album of theirs. Well, this time I’d like to talk about my favorite album of theirs! And that would be 2008’s Velocifero!

This was my second Ladytron album, after Light & Magic, which I also love. But Velocifero easily overtakes it as the best album for me. It’s just got a bigger, more well-rounded sound, and the production is fantastic. Also, it’s got my favorite Ladytron album cover:

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That may have been the reason I picked it, actually. I didn’t know where to go after Light & Magic so I went with the one with the prettiest cover, which sounds kind of shallow, but for me it was a good choice!

“Black Cat,” the opener, is just great. I love it when Mira Aroyo sings in Bulgarian. Her voice is so seductive and commanding. Her songs tend to be among my favorites in general. No idea what she’s saying, but I don’t mind. (Here are the lyrics in both Bulgarian and English, in case you were wondering.)

“Ghosts” is another great track and I’m almost a little conflicted here, because they are BOTH great openers. You could have switched the two and it would have been just as amazing. But I’m kind of glad they went with the Mira track first. Anyway, I really like how unapologetic and confident this song is. I don’t care much for the video though. There might be some Watership Down references here?

Then there’s yet another track I love: “I’m Not Scared.” There’s this car metaphor they’re playing with that draws me in every time. I guess I just like that it meshes well with the mechanical/robotic implications of their name. I think you can really hear how flawless the production is here. It’s such a well-rounded song.

I don’t have a lot to say about “Runaway” – it’s a pretty straightforward track – but I do like the video for it better than the one for “Ghosts.” It’s a lot more in line with the aesthetic of the album. And the effects are super simple but pretty cool!

Mira sings again on “Season of Illusions” – this time in English! This is one of the rare Mira songs that doesn’t do much for me. But I love something about the lyrics “Obliterate the Sunday you’ve been cherishing all week.” It’s got a very carpe diem feel to it, but it’s sung in such a cool, detached way.

I feel like there’s a lot of aggressive confidence in this album, but it’s given off in such a calm and collected way. “Burning Up” is another one of those tracks, and yet it’s teetering on giving in to the emotion simmering just beneath the surface. “I wrote a protest song about you” just really hits hard.

Another Mira song comes next: “Kletva,” which is actually a cover of a Bulgarian rock song from the late 80’s. It’s a pretty straightforward cover translated into Ladytron’s style. Again, here’s the translation…and here’s the original – it’s a nice song! And it’s weird hearing it in comparison with Ladytron’s version.

I really like “They Gave You a Heart, They Gave You a Name” a lot too. My brain tends to default to some of their songs being about robots, which is the case here, but I’m sure I’m absolutely wrong.

And OH MY GOSH, I love “Predict the Day” so much. Definitely another favorite. The haunting whistle just gets me every time, and the little exhale too. It’s so dark and, again, unapologetic. This song is flawless. It’s like the perfect villain theme song.

How many times have I mentioned that I love a song off this album so far? Like almost every one so far? Because it doesn’t stop with “The Lovers.” It sounds so sinister. There’s this marching drum beat that just goes so well with the synth, and with Helen Marnie’s almost-taunting yet lullaby-like vocals on top, it’s positively hypnotizing.

What the heck it “Deep Blue” about??? Again, my brain defaults to technology, specifically the chess-playing computer Deep Blue. Mira’s voice is so smoky and soft here. It’s a change from her normal tone. It’s really nice and it works so great with the song. I’m glad she did this one, because it wound up fitting her so well.

I don’t have a lot to say about “Tomorrow,” surprisingly. It’s a dreamy song. Somehow the style is distinct from the rest of the album (to my ears anyway) and yet it fits in just right. The video is the best of the 3 they did for this album. It reminds me of some kind of obscure experimental 70’s fantasy film. It’s beautiful to take in.

The final track is “Versus” and I think this is the first time one of the guys – Daniel Hunt – has sung on a track? I think his voice works well here! Both in sound and in theme – it’s his voice against Helen’s, but they go together nicely.

Overall, I think this is a great starter Ladytron album, but I could be saying that because I think just about every song on it is the best. I played a few tracks for a friend once, and he had never heard of Ladytron before, but he loved them instantly. So I’m going to go ahead and say that if you’ve never heard of Ladytron before either, you should definitely start here!

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Witching Hour

This last week, I decided I needed to get some new music, so I bought some Tom Waits (Nighthawks at the Diner) and Ladytron (Gravity the Seducer – finally!). But I’m not going to review either of those albums. Ha ha!

Well, I am going to review Ladytron. Specifically Witching Hour, which might have been their most critically acclaimed album, and I just don’t understand why. It’s my least favorite Ladytron album, and it pains me to say that because I really love the rest of their work.

Ladytron was trying something new on this album – which is great! All artists should be constantly trying new things. They should never get comfortable with one sound. In this case, it seems to be the use of electric guitars. And again, it’s great that they wanted to try that! But honestly, for me, it doesn’t work. It makes their songs dead, aloof, and passionless, and normally Ladytron songs are possessed, seductive, and too-cool-for-school. This album, dare I say it, is just boring. Ladytron is not boring! I don’t know what happened.

For the most part, the songs on this album all sound the same to me. And I hate it when people say that about music, because to me that’s just them saying that they’re not listening hard enough. That’s what a lazy listener says. And yet I’ve listened to this album numerous times and thought one song was another then looked and saw I was wrong. I know my music pretty well, but when it comes to Witching Hour I’m left scratching my head. It becomes background noise to me.

There are a few standout songs on this album though. I like “Sugar.” It utilizes the theme of the album but manages to keep it fresh. It’s also the second-shortest track, after the instrumental “CMYK.” That might be why it works so well. Helen Marnie’s voice actually has some decent range, compared to the rest of the album.

I also really like the sinister-sounding “Soft Power.” I feel again that Marnie shows more range – and a hell of a lot more emotion – in this track than in most of the rest of the album. The bass and electric guitar do a wonderful job of accompanying her voice rather than competing with it, as they tend to do elsewhere. When you have vocals in electronic music, it’s a delicate balancing act to make sure one never overpowers the other, and I think it works well in “Soft Power.” In contrast to “Sugar,” this is the longest song on the album. And yet it works!

“Whitelightgenerator” is pretty good. I like that it takes the sound of the album to a higher level. Literally, the pitch is higher in both the vocals and the instruments. Hearing it feels like ascending to heaven. Or maybe the high of a drug. Again, the vocals and instruments work very well together here.

“All the Way…” is easily my favorite track off this album, as well as one of my all-time favorite Ladytron songs. Maybe because it contains the least amount of electric guitar! It has an ethereal and kind of sad sound, tinged with a hint of nostalgia. I swoon when I hear the opening lyric “They heard the sound of the snow falling.” It’s simple yet poetic. The track manages to sound like a snowy winter – something I haven’t experienced in a long time. I feel at peace when I hear it. It’s a fantastic closer.

When it comes to Witching Hour, I personally would not recommend it, at least not for a first-time Ladytron listener. It’s got some interesting sounds, but they are few and far between. It’s a lackluster warm-up to the far superior Velocifero which I’d easily recommend. That is where Ladytron mastered their sound. But that is a review for another day!

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