Cate Le Bon
Since 2009, Cate Le Bon’s music has walked a fine line between pleasingly ghostly and distressingly dull. Her third album,Mug Museum, plunges headfirst into the second category, droning on without remorse.
The Welsh native attempts to create an ethereal atmosphere, but instead leaves listeners trapped in a creepy fairy world for 40 minutes. The singer-songwriter’s latest album suffers under its own melancholic weight, its energy fizzling out and deadpanning in a bland mash of dreariness.
Initially, the record holds a faint hope of promise. “I Can’t Help You” and “Are You With Me Now?” display Le Bon’s range as she bravely experiments within higher vocal registers. Poppy guitars introduce the former, creating a breezy feel despite the singer’s unusually deep timbre.
“Are You With Me Now?” sounds oddly like an ’80s ballad, but struggles to retain a balanced mix when interrupted by rough, pronounced guitars. Le Bon’s appeal plummets after her unconventional sound peaks in the catchy, wandering track “Duke.”
The album stagnates before reaching its midpoint in “No God,” where Le Bon’s voice is suppressed in a muggy air of repetitive, hollow rhythms. The fragility of her voice is painfully obvious as it slithers into a lower register, masking the muddled lyrics.
Le Bon’s vocals drown in the ruckus of an overwhelming guitar on “Wild.” She halfheartedly wails for the majority of the song, seemingly wishing for the album to end just as much as the listeners.
“Sisters” adopts a more balanced approach to the record’s gloomy theme, but fails to divert from its mournful uniformity. An electric piano desperately tries to revitalize the lagging track but is soon overshadowed by odd, misplaced howls from Le Bon.
The final three tracks drag the rest of the album, painfully, through the mud. Somber tones pervade throughout, embedding the songs even further into a strange musical contemplation on death.
Frigidity replaces early animation, and the direction of the album gets lost somewhere amidst the suffocating obsession with all things slow and depressing. Cate Le Bon’s fascination with lifeless melodies, or perhaps death itself, leaves Mug Museum limp and unsatisfying.
— Kelly Cook
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