Seventh Tree is the fourth studio album by English electronic music duo Goldfrapp. It was released on 22 February 2008 by Mute Records. It was named after a dream Alison Goldfrapp had about a "very large tree". Taking inspiration from paganism and surreal English children's books, Goldfrapp described the album as a "sensual counterpoint to the glitterball glamour of Supernature", their previous studio album from 2005.
Seventh Tree became the duo's most critically acclaimed album since their 2000 debut Felt Mountain, with critics praising their new sound and their bravery for abandoning the dance atmosphere of their previous two albums.
After spending years on the dancefloor with Black Cherry and Supernature, Goldfrapp take a breather with Seventh Tree. Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory slow down the beats and break out the acoustic guitars on a set of songs that suggest chilling out in a field during a hazy, watercolor summer; this is music for after the party, not after-parties. "Clowns" opens the album with fingerpicked acoustic guitar, bird songs, and Allison's nearly wordless vocalizing, making a statement that's bold because it's so gentle -- the effect is like stepping out into a sunny morning after spending all night in a club. At first, it's a shock, and then it feels great. Avoiding the glammy dance-pop of the duo's previous two albums is a bit of a risk, since Goldfrapp could probably make endless variations on "Ooh La La" and still have plenty of fans. However, Seventh Tree isn't so much a radical change for Goldfrapp as it is a shift in focus; even if it doesn't sound glam, it sounds glamorous. Sonic luxury has been the only constant in the duo's sound, from Felt Mountain's darkly lavish soundscapes to Black Cherry and Supernature's decadent dance hits, and there's plenty of it here, too. This is not Goldfrapp Unplugged, although acoustic guitars and strings waft in and out of the album effortlessly -- if anything, Seventh Tree's electro hippie-chic is the duo's most polished and luxe work yet. "Little Bird"'s psychedelic trip-hop builds to a majesty that recalls "Strawberry Fields Forever," buoyed by layer upon layer of guitar, vocals, sparkling synths, and a massive, rolling bassline. "Caravan Girl" is some of Goldfrapp's finest escapist pop, capturing the irresistible appeal of running away with big hooks and an even bigger wall of sounds backing them up. Allison uses her voice more beautifully and expressively than she has since Felt Mountain, especially on "Eat Yourself" and the Air-esque "Cologne Cerrone Houdini," where her upper register shines. Goldfrapp expand their emotional palette as well as their musical one on Seventh Tree, digging deeper into the vulnerable territory they explored with Supernature's "Number One." On "Monster Love" and "A&E," where Allison confesses "think I want you still, but it may be pills at work," the duo pulls off the confessional, folktronic singer/songwriter style with more flair than their peers. "Happiness," on the other hand, offers some surprisingly cheeky irony, pondering how to find "real love" (answer: "donate all your money") while coming across like a cheery cult anthem about trading your worldly possessions for colorful robes. With all the sounds and feelings Seventh Tree explores, it's clear that Goldfrapp doesn't miss the style the pair perfected on their last two albums, nor should they -- this is some of their most varied, balanced, and satisfying work. [A limited edition of Seventh Tree was also released with a DVD featuring live performances at Bexhill-on-Sea's De La Warr Pavilion; the videos for "A&E," "Happiness," and "Caravan Girl"; and TV performances of "Clowns" and "Road to Somewhere."]
Alison Goldfrapp intonates lustfully, the bloke at the back does things at the back. It’s quieter than its two predecessors with less of a dance beat. On the whole the world keeps turning.
Then I listened to it this weekend as me and Sally journeyed down to Hertfordshire by train. Sally had nodded off on my shoulder, so I took the opportunity to listen to Seventh Tree one more time before I posted the review.
Whereas previously Seventh Tree left little impression on me beyond the fact that it would be a nice album to play in the background the next time we have folks around for dinner, this time it finally revealed itself as a vibrant pop album. Where much electro-pop can leave me cold and unmoved, there’s something about Goldfrapp’s albums which works for me. They have some sort of life-rhythm which is sorely lacking in the majority of synthesised music. Perhaps it’s down to the fact that Goldfrapp is a charismatic performer, maybe Will Gregory has a firmer grasp on the internal workings of a great pop song than his contemporaries, or maybe it’s just down to the fact that as neither of them are in the first flush of youth anymore, that experience counts when it comes to putting together a good electro-pop album.
Where Seventh Tree has a failing, it’s that its more introspective nature and lack of a dance beat means it lacks a central anthem in the style of “Strict Machine” or “Ooh La La”, instead it’s studded with “Black Cherry”-esque gems which radiate a glow rather than dazzle you with their gaudy sparkle. This move away from dance-pop may have saved Goldfrapp from painting themselves into the same corner of the dance floor that the likes of Kylie Minogue and Madonna have occupied in recent years. While that’s not a bad place to be my any means, Seventh Tree was a timely reminder that there was a lot more to Goldfrapp than dance tunes, heavy rotation on commercial radio and hotpants.
Seventh Tree is an easy album to misjudge, but a little patience pays off and it’s another facet to a quietly fascinating career.