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2010 release, the sophomore album from the British Alt-Rock band, released on the band's own record label. On Optimist, N.Y.P.C. has gone back to the '80's, influenced by the likes of Siouxsie & the Banshee's, the Pretenders and PJ Harvey. If 2007's critically acclaimed, Mercury Music Prize nominated Fantastic Playroom was the culmination of the hybrid Disco sound they pioneered, the Optimist heralds the beginning of a brave new future for the band. Self-produced and more importantly self-funded and self-released, the Optimist is the sound of a band taking full control of their present and future, circumnavigating their own way. With no four on the floor, no cowbell and no monotone sexy talk, the creative freedom enjoyed by the band has opened up a new experimental side, as shown by the Psychedelic Dub balladry of 'Stone' and the atmospheric, cracked beauty of 'Architect of Love', and the singles 'Lost a Girl', 'Chaos' and 'We Want To'.
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Language: : English
- Product Dimensions : 5.39 x 4.92 x 0.31 inches; 1.9 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Pias America
- Date First Available : January 30, 2010
- Label : Pias America
- ASIN : B0036BDQEW
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #711,428 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I say mature because, especially in tracks like The Optimist and Dolls, this album sounds like a well-honed response to the attention brought by Fantastic Playroom. Considering The Optimist was self-produced and self-released, I think NYPC achieved what they were hoping for by taking more control.
I say stylish because this album varies so well from track to track without losing cohesion. Each track is built around the absolutely solid, New Order-like basslines that are always prominent in the mix; low, rumbling, bouncy... and Tahita Bulmer's sung-spoken vocals with their detached quality that alternates between introspective and in your face and can be compared to, yes, Siouxsie Sioux ("Before The Light" and "Oh Cherie" are perfect examples of both). And in between we have wonderful flourishes of piano and keyboard, drum machine intricacies, multitracked vocal bits or additional vocalists....if you get to "Rapture," track nine, and you aren't enraptured..give it another spin, this time louder. "Oh Cherie" is our climax here, "Rapture" our denouement. I promise you they promised this.
I say more fun because there's just so much going on here in addition to the immediate catchiness of what we'd expect from the group. The first two tracks draw you in to much of what you want to hear while track three, the title track, tells you just what they want you to hear.
If I draw any similarity it's not to The Pretenders or PJ Harvey, but to masterpieces of moody-manic dance pop like The Cure's "The Walk" EP from 1983 or Roxy Music's edgy disco album "Manifesto" from 1979, both being examples of bands who won the public's love and then deciding to try something new. Both offerings that were a fist and a finesse.
Our journey begins with "Lost a Girl", full of energy, singable, and provoking, these first four minutes are a teasing appetizer that sends a clear message: "We're really good, we know it, stick around for the main course and we'll blow you away!"
This is followed by "Chaos", the album's only single, which just happens to be one of the weaker tracks. It's clearly intended for old NYPC fans, giving them one last taste of the sound to which they've grown accustomed.
All great bands mature, and track 3, the eponymously titled "The Optimist" is the band's testament that they are more than capable of reinventing and refining their sound. "The Optimist" is so good it's scary, starting out deep and slow, the song tantalizes as it builds and falls, climaxing with the piercing call of the Sirens themselves. Prediction: in 2008 I forecasted that MGMT would take off because of "Kids" and in 2009 I said the same of Phoenix's "1901", I was right on both counts. For 2010, I'm placing all my chips on New Young Pony Club's "The Optimist". This track and the solid album that surrounds it will make New Young Pony Club the most hyped band of 2011; you heard it here first.
The fourth track is "Stone", a mellow song that allows the listener to catch her breath after the orgasmic "The Optimist", preparing us for a second wind. It's a good thing too, because the follow up "We Want To" gives us a sumptuous taste of everything that was right with "The Bomb" while also borrowing (apparently) from the Wizard of Oz's "Winkie Chant". Moving forward, "Dolls", "Before the Light", "Oh Cherie" and "Rapture" are all solid tracks that almost seem forgettable, until it dawns on you that your subconscious is still humming and singing them days later.
The album closes with "Architect of Love", it's haunting, it's pulsing, and it effectively incorporates heavy cowbell and chainsaws like no song you've ever heard. Most importantly, "Architect of Love" provides the perfect transition as one returns to track 1; ergo, rinse and repeat, this album exemplifies recapitulation through repetition.
Top reviews from other countries
I heard that they were going a bit darker with light touches of Goth added to their sound. Also a long term relationship had ended for the lead singer so the lyrics this time might be more than just good sounding phrases. So I was quietly optimistic for the album.
They have retained their deliberately flat, deadpanned, distanced sound. This time the songs do sound a bit different to each other which makes for a more varied listen. It starts as a glittering pop bauble with a melancholy streak but ends up as a slower, more self-consciously mature album. I'm not convinced mature, as in slower songs, fits the band half as well as up-tempo dance music. There are slight hints of a Goth sound here and there with phased vocals and ominous bass but not enough for any of these songs to fit on a playlist of Goth songs.
Lyrically there's still a lot of repetition of phrases. The words are perhaps loaded with more meaning than they were on the previous album, but I wouldn't say they are noticeably better or deeper to anyone who wasn't there for the recording of the album.
I don't think The Optimist is a disappointment. It's maybe not a great album but then I didn't expect a masterpiece from them. They haven't so much progressed from the first album as side stepped into a more melancholy direction.
Curiously they don't appear to be a band anymore in the traditional sense. The lead singer and the guitarist (and I assume both are multi-instrumentalists) are credited as writing, producing and PERFORMING the album on the back cover. On the inside the drummer is credited specifically for only four songs, and for EXTRA drums on another four songs. The keyboard player is credited with EXTRA piano on only one song. They also appear to have dropped the bass player completely. So I assume the drummer and keyboard player are more like session players now for live performances and music video appearances. Very odd.
1. Lost A Girl (4 out of 5 stars)
A good solid pop song. Fairly up-tempo with downbeat lyrics about the end of a relationship.
2. Chaos (4 stars)
Another solid pop song.
3. The Optimist (3 stars)
Slight whiff of Goth to the production. Siouxsie And The Banshees version of Helter Skelter comes to mind, mainly because of the lyric about getting to the bottom. Decent song but I feel it could have been better (darker, weirder etc).
4. Stone (2 stars)
Lyrically very simple. Musically it's mostly just bleepy sound effects (sounds like a synth but it's probably a guitar through an effect pedal?). It's the weakest song on the album but still enjoyable enough. I get the impression in the mind of the band this is one of the key tracks.
5. We Want To (3 stars)
Sounds nice but I'm not sure much is really happening of substance in the song. The vocals have an odd aquatic, bubbly feel to them.
6. Dolls (3 stars)
A more forceful, rockier dance track. Her voice is quite nakedly up-front which doesn't necessarily do her any favours, not that her voice isn't still nice.
7. Before The Light (3 stars)
Repetitive slower "mature" song. It's okay and a nice change of pace.
8. Oh Cherie (2 stars)
Another repetitive slower song. Lyrically it doesn't seem to be saying or suggesting anything. A bit banal and dwarfed by the previous song which at least hinted at depths. Pleasant filler.
9. Rapture (2 stars)
Song does nothing for me.
10. Architect Of Love (3 stars)
Unremarkable mid-tempo song with exactly the type of lyrics you would expect from a sad end of a relationship song with this title.
I like to make an EP playlist out of some albums for my iPod. Tracks 1, 2, 6 and 7 made the cut.
At the time of writing I've only heard the album twice and everyone says it's a grower so I expect to be adding amendments to this review. The three star overall rating might end up being a bit of a red herring as it will probably still get played a lot more than most three star albums should.
I would suggest buying Fantastic Playroom first before moving onto this album. I do recommend The Optimist as it is a solid 45 minute album, just don't expect to be blown away by it.