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Ladytron
Witching Hour
Ryko/ Universal Records
www.ladytron.com


Ladytron isn't doing anything terribly complex on their latest album Witching Hour: angelic female vocals over electronica beats. On paper, it's nothing that hasn't been done before. But aesthetically, it is pure bliss. They have come a long way from their 2002 indie club hit "Seventeen." Not that there was anything wrong with that song (I am probably the only 21-year-old who adores it, with the line, "They only want you when you're 17/When you're 21 you're no fun"), but let's just say Ladytron has evolved very nicely.

Witching Hour is a mature, sultry, retro-but-futuristic album, not without a few club hits to please the kiddies. "Destroy Everything You Touch" (already in the top 10 of every indie club playlist) is catchy and danceable, but seductive and brooding, like a hushed anger brewing beneath the surface. In fact, this description could probably characterize the entire first half of Witching Hour, which is rather appropriately titled. In "International Dateline," vocalist Helen Marnie takes us on a journey that she seems reluctant to take herself. "Woke up in the evening/To the sound of the screaming" sets a gorgeously eerie tone for an album's third track, which is typically supposed to be the most upbeat. This leads right into the moody "Soft Power," which contains the album's namesake. Mira Aroyo lends backing spoken word to Marnie's ethereal vocals as they sing the almost sadistic words, "We're not sleeping at the wheel/The wheel is turning the machine that kills for us." "CMYK" serves as an 80's-esque instrumental interlude, while "Sugar" acts as the national anthem for casual dating: "If I give you sugar/Will you give me/Something elusive and temporary?" The album's most unique track "Fighting In Built Up Areas" features Aroyo speaking in a foreign language over a steady, persistent drumbeat. Marnie lends her celestial vocals to add texture, and of course eeriness, bringing depth and profundity to the album overall. "Weekend", with the lines "Friday is the fever/And Monday the destroyer/You are a permanent feature/Perpetual weekend," could be placed in the "club hit" category until it moves beyond this label with its strikingly otherworldly closing. The surprise highlight of the album is "Beauty*2," an alluring ballad featuring Marnie with a twinge of agony in her voice that is only hinted at in "International Dateline." The listener can sense her laments over a rendezvous gone sour in the repetitious overlays as she sings the lyrics, "Hey can I go with you/When the rendezvous is over/It's over."

Listening to Witching Hour is similar to getting a tetanus shot: it kind of freaks you out at first, but it's good for you in the long run. Had Ladytron decided to go for the sinister Witch theme throughout the course of this album, it would have grown tired. Fortunately, they didn't, and it resulted in a beautiful, well-rounded record. It is arranged like your standard big budget film: It grabs your attention ("High Rise", "Destroy Everything You Touch"), gets a little bit scary ("International Dateline", "Soft Power"), a little bit sexy ("Sugar"), doesn't always make sense ("Fighting In Built Up Areas"), climaxes ("Weekend"), makes you cry ("Beauty*2"), takes you somewhere far, far away ("White Light Generator"), and comes to an end with something like "All The Way", which even sounds like music you might hear in the closing credits of a film. Witching Hour may just bring Ladytron out of their previous indie-club-band status, and into the realm of intelligent music where they belong.

-Allegra Willis

Track Listing:
1. High Rise
2. Destroy Everything You Touch
3. International Dateline
4. Soft Power
5. CMYK
6. amTV
7. Sugar
8. Fighting In Built Up Areas
9. Last One Standing
10. Weekend
11. Beauty*2
12. White Light Generator
13. All The Way


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