June 10, 2009

Review: Antigone's debut, Antigoneland

Photograph by Sukey Parnell

may follow a glittery line of one-name discopop divas, but she brandishes a more poetic wit than most. Working with Darren Hayes collaborator (Justin) Shave, she laces her debut album with "did she just say that?" imagery and a wide sonic palette, from eurodisco to cabaret to ambient chill tunes.

Promiscuity, the opening track, sets the tone for an ambitious album about men, women, love, sex and self-reliance. Its porn bass and mod, squiggly synths are supporting players to the song's centerpiece, Antigone's powerful voice, which - literally and figuratively - dominates the album. The final lines of Promiscuity conjure fearless sexuality, "As she wanders quietly away... Behind her trails a fishing line / That joins our loins to our hearts."

Fans of discopop will find much to love. The ecstatic Mirror manages to evoke Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and, strangely, Red Hot Chili Peppers in three minutes. In an alternative universe, a psychic correction has been made and the blazing More Man Than Man sits atop the charts. With its repeated hook "I don't believe you understand / A woman can be more man than man," this is the kind of diva-gets-hers anthem that works lip-syncing drag queens into a hot mess.

During the manifesto To Be Real, Antigone wanders under a horn-laden jazz shower. Antigoneland is filled with this kind of detail, the artist having toiled over the songs for a luxurious length of time. Halfway through the otherwise midtempo Into Your Head, she summons the spirit of rock priestesses like Patti Smith, screaming "My love is like a little vulture!" in a shocking punk detour.

Antigone has likened the album to the arc of an evening out, ending in the wee hours of dawn. The latter tracks, like the spoken-word Palomino, recall the moody, erotic genuis of Vanessa Daou, whose 90's album Zipless is an ambient electropop classic. The lush nighttime ballad Life Without You is so swoonily pretty it will have Alison Goldfrapp crying into her tea.

Whether popular success welcomes her or not, Anigone Foster exists in the realm of intelligent pop artists like Roisin Murphy and Siobhan Donaghy. The album's final moment, in Waking Up Slowly, says it all. After a swell of strings, the orchestration drops and she sings, "I'm not a afraid of growing old / I'm not afraid of desire." If Antigoneland were human - and it may be, in its creator's mind - it would be a fierce woman, marching home through the city canyons, smiling at a memory she keeps only for herself.


Antigone recently moved back to her native Australia after years in London. She's currently prepping for a big album push there. The picture above is a first image from her "next wave." The album is out now on itunes worldwide(ish).


Adem With An E said...

What a marvelous review. I've been (trying) to pen a review on this record for a few weeks now that I've decided to blog again, but have found it hard to put forward everything I've wanted to say. Hopefully soon...

"To Be Real" is easily one of my absolute favourite songs of the year too.

Stunning picture, by the way.

Andy said...

The album is wonderful. Antigone should be massive.

Thought this may be of interest to you, in case you missed it: http://twitter.com/antigoneland/status/2103139568

Phil said...

"Smiling at a memory she keeps only for herself" - what a gorgeous line...

And "horn-laden jazz shower" just sounds too rude.

Loves it!

undisco_me said...

Speaking of jazz baby's, that stunning shot reminds me of Genevieve Waite.

Brooke said...

I really love the album, and it ends on such a lovely song.