By: Elle Hoffman, Editor-In-Chief/Fan of emotional dichotomy
If Wes Anderson is ever looking to do a Graduate-style organic soundtrack he should call up Cate Le Bon. Seriously. While this album is brand new, any song would easily soundtrack a moment from the Anderson canon past, present, and future. This album, like an Anderson film (to further exhaust this comparison) should be really boring and nondescript, but its not. While Le Bon infuses these songs with every element we now describe as even roughly “vintage-y” the simplistic, catchy melodies executed in a clear and deliberate manner elevate the album above schmaltzy narcissism. Basically, Mug Museum sounds like Belle & Sebastian on their most lucid of days.
While the orchestration and sound structure isn’t exactly new, it’s still interesting. The real highlight here is Le Bon’s voice. The unique cadence, somewhat hooded nondescript pronunciation (surprise, she’s Welsh), yet deliberate delivery feels as if all those mid-century french pop songs you often hear in middling films have been translated and remastered. The album is rich, warm, and consistently accessible. Often artists who are heavily influenced by early pop and rock music get a little…carried away. Temperance and nostalgia rarely come hand in hand, leading to many a derivative and, frankly, boring-as-hell album.
While Le Bon obviously has her “thing” down she also possesses great range. The songs in this album are all over the place – yet the whole is still cohesive. The fantastic opener “I Can’t Help You” is an upbeat track with a catchy chorus comprised of saxophone bursts, and what sounds like a very advanced version of chopsticks layered on top of a bouncing guitar line that trades of with Le Bon in a call and response type set up. Moving on from here the album’s true content, which is a tale of her dealing with her grandmother’s death, becomes a bit more obvious. While none of the song’s instrumentation ever gets “I’m so depressed I can’t breath” Morrissey dark, the lyrics belie the real topic at hand. Songs that seem cheery (or at least content) on the surface have titles like “No God.” The darkest song on the record, at least sonically speaking, is the instantly intriguing “Wild” which expertly borrows the discordant choruses, dirge-like guitar, and rich organs of early psych rock.
Music is often most interesting when the things to be taken away from it appear in levels and Mug Museum is a prime modern example of this. Le Bon doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, she makes you work for the emotional payout – but it’s well worth it. If you want a more simplistic approach you can always just press play, enjoy the inherent song craft, and imagine you’re walking through an Anderson film. The occasional escape from reality is always welcome, right?
“I Can’t Help You”
Elle is a senior journalism student from The Ozarks by way of Texas. She wants to work in arts criticism and commentary, but her dream job is as a basic cable talking head (look for her on “I Heart the ‘10’s”). Her other role at KCOU is as co-host of Anglophiles Anonymous. Her American Dream is owning an ice maker and a corgi – dream big Millennials!