Au Revoir Simone

Still Night, Still Light

Rating: 3.5

Label: Our Secret Record Company

Au Revoir Simone’s latest release, Still Night, Still Light, manages a neat trick: it’s effervescent and mournful all at once. The Brooklyn trio of Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo wring all the solemnity and strange peace that comes with breakups in the course of 10 tracks, without ever seeming overly gloomy. It’s not an album about sadness, but about dealing with sadness – and of course, it’s just plain pretty, too.

The trio has a solid base formula of keyboards, drum machine and nearly indistinguishable vocals on nearly every song, but with enough minor variations to never be quite monotonous. The harmonies are gorgeous, although somewhat interchangeable; it’s often difficult to tell which vocalist is singing at any given time, but the gentle interplay of the voices adds to the dreamy atmosphere of synths and Casio beats.

Opening track “Another Likely Story” is reminiscent of Tiger Bay-era Saint Etienne, all washing synthesizers and a simple, almost danceable beat. Fortunately, Au Revoir Simone doesn’t so much ape as build on; they may be deep in debt, but they’re not imitators. Following track “Shadows” builds from a nearly identical beat, but could not ever be mistaken for the same song. The hypnotic pulse of keyboards slowly turns mournful, until it’s a plea of “I’m moving on, I hope you’re coming with me/ ‘Cause I’m not strong/ Without you.” Standout track “All or Nothing” is both catchy and defiant as it opens with the enigmatic “Everywhere is somewhere, baby/ So can’t you see we’re in the middle of somewhere” and a stark electronic organ, until it’s taken over by a three-part choral harmony.

If there’s a weakness to Still Night, Still Light, it is that the aforementioned formula can wear a little on the listener, or at least become overpowering. There are no filler tracks, but some of the instrumental intros, as in “Knight of Wands,” can run a little long; this wouldn’t be the case if the songs didn’t rely as much on repetition as they do. Fortunately, any minor bumps are ably smoothed out by a song like “Only You Can Make You Happy;” sounding as motivated by the dance floor as by emotion, the lyrics are simple and genuine, echoing the title until caught up in a wordless vocal hook and a nearly Beatles-esque synthesizer. “Trace A Line” is nearly as successful but far less atmospheric, with a cheap, fun beat and nearly spoken word vocal. It practically begs to be a Casiotone for The Painfully Alone collaboration (perhaps someday, in a better world).

Au Revoir Simone have outdone themselves with their third outing. They show that a band doesn’t have to be doom-and-gloom to be emotive, not histrionic to be tearful. Still Night, Still Light is the kind of album to be wistful along with, until you break a smile.

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