Far be it from me to tell you what to listen to, but I've got a secret:
You're missing out.
You might not even know it yet, but you are missing out on a great band entering the prime of their recording career.
And this album is their Help!. Their Face To Face. Their Document. Their awakening into the great sensual and sensory devices afforded to us by our ears.
Tahiti 80's Wallpaper For The Soul begins innocuously enough with the title track, a sketchy, scratchy trip hop beat with a sinewy echo of organ chords. As it begins to devolve into 808 analogue high-frequency schizoid, you get the feeling you are walking towards a door, and behind it is a world you've never known before. Xavier Boyer's lyrics kick in and reinforce this idea in the most powerful way possible: the first line tells you exactly what you're about to experience: "wallpaper for the soul." Elegant strings began appearing out of nowhere, breakbeat programming weaves in and out, and the wholeness of the composition is powerful enough to let you know these guys mean pop business.
Abandoning their artsier tack for a good take on some vintage R&B, "1,000 Times", with its lyrics about second chances and its Burt Bacharach strings make head-nodding a virtual certainty, and the organ licks are about as groovy as you can make at 108 bpm.
Continuing their loungier efforts with "Separate Ways" and "Get Yourself Together", offering plenty of faded harmonies, high-register melodies, and encouraging words, Tahiti 80 finally lets you realize that they're the wallpaper for your soul: talks of "childlike smiles" and "special journeys", the band lets their unique arrangements (the Urban Soul Orchestra provided strings and horns on virtually every track) spring forth and add a snap to their already musically-enlightened step.
Stepped through the door yet? Welcome to "The Other Side," a number as soulful as any offering by The High Llamas or Marvin Gaye. The fleeting falsetto meanderings offer the listener a choice to embrace the world as it is, without the grating morality of consequences.
Moving on to the Grandaddyesque "Happy End" with its steel guitar work, plaintive vocals, full of hope and sorrow, we see the band is as much in tune with the song as a unit on its own, where the genre, played out as it may be, still seems fresh even in the context of the (vaguely annoying) choir synthesized sounds.
Wearing the influence of their newfound fan Cornelius on their sleeve, "Fun Fair" adds plenty of vocal filters, oddly programmed drum machines (courtesy of Pedro Redense, the bassist and apparent Juno enthusiast), and even acoustic guitars amidst a full electronic band. The multiple melodic movements that appear towards the end of the song add texture and depth to an already astoundingly rich song, but they only hint at what's to come.
Having been dipped in the rich waters of Tahiti 80's full command of the production room, you are now about to be baptized. From the opening moments of "Soul Deep", as the catchiest trumpet riff in recent memory emerges cathartic in rich stereo, till the moment Xavier tells you that "everything's already there in your heart" and he intends to go soul deep to find it, you can't help but feel as if the music engulfs you internally. At this point, I had to tell someone else about this CD, so I ran and found my roommate and forced a listen upon him. He just shrugged his shoulders at "Open Book," the next track, which virtually copycats a Death Cab For Cutie melody line and adds a cheap wah-wah organ sound as a prechorus. But he too become hooked as "The Train" came on, adding the light bass synth over a humming, hovering high-end ambient Rhodes piano tone and tight shimmying 4/4 beat.
By the time the light lounge-funk of "Don't Look Below" emerged, I was almost emotionally spent. Thankfully, Tahiti 80 took it into their hands to lighten things up and offer a boogie so reminiscent of Serge Gainsbourg (an early supporter in their days of Paris lounge clubs) one almost expects Brigitte Bardot to come out retirement (I personally prayed for it out loud.)
Closing out the album is the swaying, Elliott Smith-inspired waltz of "Memories Of The Past." With its final fadeout lyrics (as the song degenerates into electronic buzz) of "this very personal story may only make sense to me" is a lie. It has made sense to many of us, Xavier, and we're very glad you shared it with us.
- Wallpaper For The Soul
- 1000 Times
- Separate Ways
- Get Yourself Together
- The Other Side
- Happy End
- Fun Fair
- Soul Deep
- Open Book
- The Train
- Don't Look Below
- Memories Of The Past
- Xavier Boyer - vocals, bells, piano, keyboards, guitars, saxophone
- Pedro Redense - programming, filters, bass, percussion
- Sylvain Marchand - keyboards, drums, mellotron, percussion, tambourine
- Mederic Gontier - guitar, backing vocals
Produced By: Andy Chase & Tahiti 80.
Recorded: May 2001 - January 2002 at:
Engineered By: Andy Chase, Geoff Sanoff, Pedro Resende, & Ruddy Cullers.
Mixed By: Tony Lash at Dead Aunt Thelma's (Portland, Oregon).
Mastered By: Scott Hull at Classic Sound (New York City).
All Songs By Xavier Boyer and Tahiti 80.
Copyright 2002, Minty Fresh Records.