You probably don’t recognise the name Wouter De Backer. You may not have heard of his musical alias, Gotye. One thing I can almost guarantee, however, is that you’ve heard his music, or more specifically his new single: Somebody That I Used To Know, featuring Kimbra. With a YouTube video nearing 100 million views and three weeks at the top of the UK singles chart, Somebody That I Used To Know seemed to appear from nowhere before taking Australasia and Europe by storm.
Somebody… isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a modern chart-topper. For one thing, it sounds nothing like the trash David Guetta, Flo Rida or their other generic cronies would produce. It opens to understated guitar chords and a xylophone solo, and the texture builds over two verses of Gotye lilting breathily about an ex-lover. This culminates in a chorus doomed to be eternally murdered on drunken karaoke nights. The third verse finally introduces Kimbra, who goes on to steal the show with beautifully sustained harmonies in the second chorus. In short, Somebody… is a musical delight, which will certainly be a strong contender for my song of the year come December.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the story, for this is an album review and there is more substance to Making Mirrors than just its breakthrough single. The only problem is that the substance is generally something of a disappointment. There is great diversity in Gotye’s sound here, but the album ends up sounding more like twelve completely unrelated pieces than a cohesive unit.
The opening title track has a very warm sound, contrasting with the hazy effects on Gotye’s vocals, which sound bleak in comparison. The following track, Easy Way Out, contains a surprisingly heavy guitar riff during the intro and chorus, yet bland, lacklustre verses let it down.
The album also skips through different genres all too regularly. I Feel Better has a rhythm & blues / soul feel to it, and In Your Light could be called country music were it not for the unnecessary brass section. State of the Art, meanwhile, is an experimental, dubby vocoder-fest: Mark Ronson meets James Blake. It discusses the impact of technology on modern life and music, which could have been interesting but ends up feeling like an amateurish mess.
Making Mirrors definitely has highlights, but the sub-standard tracks are constantly waiting on the sidelines as distractions. The album lacks any form of clear direction and very few tracks can live up to the one song you will have already heard. Those people who buy this in the hopes of more like Somebody… won’t get it. What you will get instead is some intriguing, experimental and occasionally listenable tracks, interspersed with some tracks that shouldn’t have been allowed to see the light of day. Gotye is definitely a talent, but this album is far too hit and miss to truly show it.
Favourite tracks: Somebody That I Used To Know, Smoke and Mirrors, Giving Me A Chance
Least favourite track: State of the Art