Au Revoir Simone returns and recaptures its magic
The lyrics that open “More Than”, the first track on the new Au Revoir Simone album, probably weren’t intended to be about the band itself, but it’s hard not to read them that way: “It’s a long time coming/A long time gone away.”
After releasing its first three albums in the span of four years, the Brooklyn-based synth-pop band seemingly disappeared when it wrapped up touring behind 2009’s critically lauded Still Night, Still Light, only to reappear this year with a fourth LP, Moving in Spectrums. Au Revoir Simone didn’t disband, but its three members—all of whom sing and play keyboards—were occupied with other things. Heather D’Angelo went back to school, earning a degree in environmental biology from Columbia University. Erika Forster issued a solo EP under the name Erika Spring. Annie Hart played some shows with the bands Uninhabitable Mansions and Pursesnatchers. Oh, and she managed to squeeze becoming a mother into her schedule as well.
Au Revoir Simone’s future was uncertain. “We felt so fulfilled by Still Night, Still Light, our last record, that we didn’t know what new territory we were going to explore and what we needed to say that hadn’t been said,” Hart says, reached just after a sound check at Boston’s Brighton Music Hall. “But we decided to just give it a try.”
Based on the evidence of Moving in Spectrums, the three women found that they did indeed have something left to say. Au Revoir Simone’s sonic signatures—spun-sugar vocal harmonies and the mellow-gold haze of layered vintage analogue synthesizers—are still in place, but the album showcases the trio at its most diverse. The driving “Crazy”, for example, is a sparkling pop tune, while “Somebody Who” is dance music for sad robots and the album-closing “Let the Night Win” is a dreamy shimmer of iridescent melody.
For Hart, the process of creating this new material meant switching instruments, or at least giving it a shot. When the band reconvened to begin writing Moving in Spectrums, she decided to step away from her synthesizer stand and get behind a drum kit. “I’ve always been the member of the band who’s flailing around and more active, and I thought that doing a more active instrument would be more fun for me and more fulfilling, and kind of like, you know, Animal from the Muppets—just getting that crazy energy out would be really exciting,” Hart recalls. “It didn’t really work out that way, but that’s cool.
“It wasn’t until we got the drums that we had worked on on a sampler and then we could all play keyboards again that it kind of had that magic back,” she continues. “It felt more natural. It felt like there was a missing piece without all of us playing keyboards, and that was when we knew it was right. It was like puzzle pieces. Everything started falling in place and we knew that we were going to have a really strong record. We actually ended up writing almost 20, 25 songs for this, and culled it down to the ones that are on the record. But we have some amazing B-sides in our back pocket.”
Those should come in handy should Au Revoir Simone find itself taking another lengthy hiatus and in need of something to tide its fans over.