Thursday, 19 April 2018

Album Review | Daphne & Celeste | 'Daphne & Celeste Save the World' (2018)

image credit: daphne & celeste
Forget Beyonce at Coachella, Daphne and Celeste’s 2000 Reading Festival performance was that of legend. They will forever be enshrined as one of the most punk-ass performances ever to be seen, prevailing against bottles – and wheelchairs – being thrown at them, even stunning Rage Against the Machine with their confidence and badassery.

But what became of them after that? Karen ‘Daphne’ DiConcetto and Celeste Cruz parted ways in 2002, eventually reuniting in 2015 with the release of ‘You and I Alone’, which would become the first single from their comeback album Daphne & Celeste Save the World. Written and produced by Max Tundra (Franz Ferdinand, Architecture in Helsinki and the Pet Shop Boys), Daphne and Celeste’s comeback sees them embrace their history and utilize it to create a completely different aura than to what they had before.  

Save the World opens with the aptly named ‘Save the World’, where the album immediately moves into a jovial, upbeat rhythm that continues for the first six tracks until a strange, melancholic lull creeps in for a moment or two – well, four songs to be exact -  only for a sudden jolt of enthusiasm in ‘Song to a Succulent’ to return listeners to the wonderful world of Daphne and Celeste.

‘Sunny Day’ follows ‘Save the World’, which on first listen does seem a bit jarring. The auto-tune doesn’t seem to be needed for the duo, but contemplating it after a few listens, it fits with the weirdly robotic aesthetic that is lined throughout this comeback. Whether it’s the plethora of synth lines or experimentation with differing beats and melodies, there always seems to be something that’s a little … off on each track, which makes this record all the more unique.

Daphne and Celeste can go from a track like ‘Sunny Day’, and jump straight into a seemingly acoustic romp that is ‘BB’; an unconventional, chatty, and dirty track where the duo break the fourth wall so to speak, as they are heard chatting at the beginning as if they were listening to a radio, and the lyrics in the rest of the song seem as though it’s their commentary on an artist that they are listening to, a ‘busker on the radio’.

‘A.L.T.O.’ full embraces the quirkiness of the album, not landing in any specific genre. There are hints of electronica, synthwave, power pop and even reggae throughout the song, where Daphne and Celeste comfortably experiment as they have done throughout their career. ’16 Stars’ follows suit with an unconventional composition, almost acting as two songs in one; demonstrating Daphne and Celeste’s ability to adapt and transform, as is the case for ‘Paint Can’. A track that really shouldn’t work but does so perfectly. The vocal melody counteracts with a strange synth pattern that is almost out of tune, with a strange link to the type of jingly music you’d hear in elevators. And it comes with a lot of unicorn imagery, too.

‘You + I Alone’ marks the bizarrely forlorn section of Save the World. The vocals are given a focus here, thanks to a quiet drum loop, bass and synth hook. The track goes in an almost Lynchian direction, with the blatant reference to Twin Peaks (‘Leland Palmer in the dark’), adding to an ominous feel that strangely fits the duo. It’s like a yin and yang of emotion on this record – happy and downright despondency.  

This is channeled through a mixture of minor and major chords, the highlight of which is ‘Alarms’ where although the track is considerably faster – and almost club-like – it’s hard not to let your mind drift on the highs and lows of where the differing chords take you. Same goes for ‘Taking Notes’, hell, even more so. Daphne and Celeste almost emulate a poppy Nine Inch Nails with the deep synths and feedback, whilst also channeling a little Prince in there too with Madonna-esque vocals. ‘Golden Doldrum’ ends the cycle, with an enveloping reversed instrumental and vocals that sound as though they are being recorded in a vacuum … in a good way, of course. Such a good way.

Then it’s straight back into the upbeat with ‘Song to a Succulent’, as though nothing happened. There is a little dip back into the bizarre with ‘Whatever Happened to Yazz?’ and its delayed vibrations and Prince-like tendencies, but Save the World ultimately ends on a surreal commercial jingle that takes the shape of ‘Kandy Korn’. A trivial subject that is none the less bewildering.

As earwormy and nostalgic as ‘Ooh Stick You’ and ‘U.G.L.Y.’ were, Daphne and Celeste have certainly grown up since the early 2000s – as we all have – to produce a creatively advantageous comeback that is just, well, fun. 

Daphne & Celeste Save the World is available now via Balatonic. 

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