(The Control Group)
1/2 (out of 5)
If accomplished Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon isn't indie rock's It Girl of 2012, I will slowly shake my head in disbelief. Considering that St. Vincent—Le Bon's tourmate, by the way, and another classy diva with gravitas—was indie rock's It Girl of 2011, indie rock seems primed for a Cate Le Bon media blitz this year.
With Cyrk, her sophomore follow-up album to 2010's Me Oh My, Le Bon asserts herself as the logical successor to fill indie music's Trish Keenan–sized void. Like the late, beloved Broadcast vocalist, Le Bon radiates a stern, enigmatic charisma that never wears out its welcome.
Sonically, Cyrk pushes familiar buttons with fresh fingers. Opening track "Falcon Eyed" fades in (more opening tracks should fade in) and proceeds to klang and charge with brio, like a perfect synthesis of the Fall's "Pay Your Rates" and the Velvet Underground's "I Can't Stand It," with poised idylls for sweet crooning. It's a contender for song of the year. The rest of Cyrk lacks the sublimity of "Falcon Eyed," but it's nonetheless packed with greatness. First single "Puts Me to Work" is a midtempo chiming charmer that's Smiths-like in its exquisite languor. "Cyrk" is a distant cousin to Wire's "Three Girl Rhumba," at once regimented and jaunty, but with a surprise rave-up at the end. "Julia" is a spangly waltz-time number with ominous shakers that finds Le Bon in her highest register, singing, "Can you teach me how to come?" The album's longest track at 5:40, "Fold the Cloth" conflates folky psychedelia with Stereolab's frothy melancholia. The closing diptych, "Ploughing Out," begins as a pensive ballad before ascending from the mopey, light-headed reverie with a glorious blooming of sunshine guitar and Le Bon's most ebullient delivery.
Cyrk just oozes rich substantiality and obsessive replayability. Bow down to 2012's indie-rock It Girl, fools.