‘Making Mirrors’ by Gotye reviewed
‘Making Mirrors‘ is the third studio album by Melbourne act Gotye, released in August. Gotye (pronounced gore-ti-yeah) is really one-man wonder Wally De Backer, armed with a sampler and the kind of home studio set up any musician would kill for. When he’s not drumming for indie rock trio The Basics, De Backer builds catchy songs on and around his own recorded samples.
But before you throw him in with Girl Talk (though who doesn’t love Girl Talk), it’s worth mentioning that the hook samples are obscure and generally brief, not the sort of recognisable licks that find their way onto a Kanye West album. Legend has it that De Backer began sampling after he inherited a hefty collection of old LPs from an elderly neighbour, which explains why most of the samples aren’t immediately identifiable. With this newest album, De Backer relied heavily on live recording drums and acoustic instruments, and then sampling and manipulating them for the desired effect.
The album has already supplied 3 impressive singles—the most recent, “Somebody That I Used To Know” is deliciously simple, with minimal instrumentation and vocals that alternate between bare confessional in the verses, and heavily layered harmonies in the refrain. It’s a formula that also works in the album’s first single; “Hearts a Mess” is catchy and powerful, more uptempo than “Somebody” but more haunting as well.
Every track on ‘Making Mirrors‘ showcases De Backer’s talent for crafting enjoyable and ear-grabbing tunes, but one track stands out above the others lyrically: “Eyes Wide Open,” the second single to be released. Even with a fairly complex instrumentation (including the catchiest gallop beat ever recorded), it’s still the vocals and lyrics that project the most. The song, which De Backer describes as a “dystopian vision” of the world’s future, is the first that he wrote in what we might consider the ‘traditional’ way—he constructed the song and then worked samples and live recordings into it, as opposed to building the song up from samples.
The rest of the album is a surprising mix of light and dark, with a few heavy songs interspersed between upbeat jams. But the real magic in this album is the pure joy that comes through most of the songs—they have the magnetic delight of motown, that tambourine clap-happy energy that has always made the Golden Oldies so irresistible. “I Feel Better” is the best example of this, since it could probably pass for a Four Tops song, with a twist.
De Backer records, produces, and mixes all the music for Gotye, and recorded ‘Making Mirrors‘ in his parents’ barn. I should probably pretend that it is his ingenious use of original samples, or his knack for production, that makes this album so solid, and the songs so dynamic. But truthfully, the songs stand on their own as well-constructed and memorable tracks, regardless of the recording methods.
As most music snobs, I profess to love analog and sniff at all things digital; but it is a more and more irrelevant point of reference these days, when even ‘live’ recordings are manipulated to fit modern standards of perfection. ‘Making Mirrors‘ is a pleasing combination of both, with layers that blend live and sampled tracks in a way that pop music hasn’t seen yet.
Step aside, Kanye.
Post by Emily