While Cate Le Bon debuted with a dark side, her follow-up, CYRK, shows the first signs of the Cardiff-based songstress leaving that identity behind. Her haunting, Welsh-infused vocals stand as the driving force behind an album of mixed traits, mingling the familiar gloom with experimental pop. These newfound pop allowances are poised to bring Le Bon a breakout year.
Le Bon has previously allowed her unforgettable Nico-esque whisper to carry her efforts, stealing the spotlight from any off-kilter instrumental work. Such is not always the case for this album, with the emphatic piano and guitar playing an equally important role. The jangly strings that accompany the swift-moving opener “Falcon Eyed” ensnare airy melodies, creating beautified chaos like that of recent tour mate St.Vincent. The appearance of trill keys on “Cyrk” are scaled back, acting as a jovial companion to a lyrical portrait of seasonal reflection.
CYRK may not be centered on death like the artist’s debut, but a foreboding darkness is still intact. Stray instrumentals collect themselves to open “Greta”, with Le Bon’s syrupy, Trish Keenan-like falsetto floating on hushed keys and a budding trumpet that boldly closes out. “Through the Mill” presents a tale of sadness, as Le Bon lets listeners fill in the missing pieces with her allusive lyrics that craft more imagery than details.
Even Le Bon is seemingly aware of her split personality, presenting closer “Ploughing Out” in two parts. The opening, a gentle praise song for a mysterious “he” backed by twangy guitar, is swept into an ending of cacophony, piled with brass instrumentals, merry keys laced in eeriness, and a repetitive chorus crescendoing to its exit. Le Bon maintains a careful balance with her scattered ideas, presenting an album rich in curious charm.
Essential Tracks: “Falcon Eyed”, “Through the Mill”, and “Ploughing Out Part 1 and 2”