Universal Republic Records, 2011
REVIEW BY: Josh Allen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/03/2012
Even if you have been hiding under a rock for the last three months, chances are you still weren't able to elude hearing “Somebody That I Used To Know” at least forty-seven times.
The single that propelled the Australian-Belgian artist Wally De Backer (better known as Gotye) has dominated the radio waves en route to claiming the #1 spot on the Billboard Top 100, and with its unique and unbelievably catchy melodies and percussion, it's easy to imagine “Somebody That I Used To Know” earning play years down the road. The moment that xylophone sequence infected my brain, I immediately realized I was in for a new experience – scattered synth samples accompany bitter lyrics, as De Backer swaps verbal jabs with a frustrated ex-lover (precisely portrayed by guest vocalist Kimbra): “You didn't have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened / And that we were nothing.” The single provides hitherto unheard styles that carry an offbeat appeal that swells with each listen.
But enough about what you've already heard – what of the remainder of Making Mirrors? Many of the albums tracks maintain the novelty achieved by the hit single (which, it turns out, is the apex of the album), while others borrow heavily from ‘80s pop, with upbeat rhythms, synthesizer-heavy instrumentals, and vocals frequently compared to the likes of Genesis or Sting.
The album blooms magnificently with its opening title track, as a delicate introit of flute and bass samples back Backer's whispering vocals, constructing a mellow, dreamy atmosphere. “Easy Way Out” then explodes into grooving, electronic beats mixed with guitar riffs and an array of percussion (xylophones, harps, tambourines), leading seamlessly into the previously discussed “Somebody That I Used To Know.” With each new phrase in the album's first three tracks, Gotye affronts the listener with a fresh, dizzying amalgam of instrumentation, effects, and vocals.
Then begin the influences from decades past. “Eyes Wide Open” and the peppy “In Your Light” maintain brisk rhythms and ‘80s pop instrumentation, but each with subtle touches (steel guitar here, brass section there) to give the tracks extra depth. “I Feel Better,” meanwhile, curiously adopts a Motown style and uber-cheerful lyrics (“That's when you gave me a reason / To make me smile again / I only have to see you and then / I feel better”). An interesting twist, to be sure, but it feels forced and out-of-place within the context of the album. The tail end of the album slows considerably, with low-key, almost ambient tracks like “Giving Me A Chance” and closer “Bronte.”
Other times, Gotye again aims for the idiosyncratic, with less success. “State Of The Art” boasts a parade of widely varied synth effects and a catchy chorus, but the song is all but ruined by its bizarre verses, veiled in AutoTune. “Smoke And Mirrors” begins and ends with a downright awesome jam, with an unforgettable hook on keyboards and layer after layer of percussion, abated only slightly by Gotye's occasionally distracting vocals.
Without a doubt, though, Making Mirrors will be known for the single that propelled Gotye to global indie music fame. While the remainder of the album can be praised for its widely varied percussion/keyboards and willingness to experiment, its scatterbrained nature tends to derail the listener from time to time, preventing it from being as celebrated as it could've been.