By now, most people have heard Somebody That I Used To Know in some form, whether the cover version by Ontario band Walk Off The Earth, an amateur YouTube cover or the original by Belgian-born Australian singer-songwriter Gotye. The song was a hit for him in Australia, New Zealand and Belgium, among other countries last summer. Since December, it has been spread through the Facebook feeds of nearly everyone else while storming the Billboard charts and, surprisingly enough, Alternative radio.
The song follows a rather minimalist approach with just a guitar and xylophone supported by a minor beat. It does sample a song called Seville by Luiz Bonfa but even that keeps the recording nearly bare bones. Add in a second verse by up-and-coming New Zealand recording artist Kimbra and you still have a basic sound that is still able to sum up the post-breakup emotions written by Gotye about past relationships.
With such a simple sounding song to represent him, I would have pinned Gotye as a pure guitar-and-vocals kind of guy. Someone whose entire album is carried by the same style of recorded song with little variation. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to Gotye than meets the ear with that one runaway hit.
State Of The Art is an absolute cheese-fest but the manipulation of the vocals pitched down for the entire song with the playfulness of the lyrics that I imagine are being literally spun around the instruments make the song so fun that it becomes the new baseline for my interpretation of what type of artist Gotye is. He’s a sound puppeteer on this song. “Now we can pretend/that there’s an orchestra in the loungeroom (cue orchestra sound)/I put the Genie Bass on/so my left hand can play the choir (cue choir sound)”. Any limitations I would have placed on him for Somebody That I Used To Know have been completely removed. First impression out the window. That’s not to say he doesn’t occasionally get carried away. Smoke And Mirrors can be a bit overwhelming with the production that seems to overpower the song itself.
When the production on Somebody aren’t being compared to Peter Cetera, Sting or Peter Gabriel, he does offer a couple of tracks that sound directly from the Motown era with the 1-2 punch of I Feel Better and In Your Light. The former sounds like it could have been a Jackson 5 classic complete with a young Michael Jackson instead of Gotye on vocals. Meanwhile, Don’t Worry, We’ll Be Watching You is an almost sinister song placed over a light paranoid beat that increases very lightly in intensity toward the end.
Gotye is a very versatile recording artist who uses his production skills very liberally on Making Mirrors. If there’s one thing that can’t be said about him is that his techniques are boring. While the resulting songs aren’t of the same calibre as Somebody That I Used To Know, he has a handle on the music he makes and for that I give him props.
1. Making Mirrors
2. Easy Way Out
3. Somebody That I Used To Know [featuring Kimbra]
4. Eyes Wide Open
5. Smoke And Mirrors
6. I Feel Better
7. In Your Light
8. State Of The Act
9. Don’t Worry, We’ll Be Watching You
10. Giving Me A Chance
11. Save Me