Cate Le Bon daringly explores the obscure corners of pop on Pompeii
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  • Post published:11/02/2022
  • Post last modified:11/02/2022

But even in the midst of grappling with the heaviness of what that means, Le Bon has re-emerged with a collection that shows her poised in her pop era. Beyond the exceptional songwriting, Le Bon’s approach is as daring as ever. Adorned with a familiar lens, you’ll uncover a wide array of influence — from bits and pieces of Stereolab, avant-garde touchstones, and elements of ‘70s rock. Pompeii shows Le Bon happily wandering into the obscure corners of what pop music can become, establishing a well-earned spot as one of today’s most captivating visionaries.

Le Bon isn’t one to shy away from a rigorous schedule. Not only does she play every instrument on Pompeii aside from drums and saxophone, she’s credited for a multitude of producing duties as well. She also spends time writing music with White Fence’s Tim Presley. But despite an expansive resume, Le Bon’s strong suit for the past few years has been her solo career. Even so, while the songs here tend to fall on a more foreseeable end, Le Bon makes up for it with an album brimming with substance and moments of enlightenment. Much like Reward, these songs are cut from similar cloth. But while sparse on the surface, Le Bon shows just how much weight simpler moments can hold.

Announced last fall was Pompeii’s first single, “Running Away.” Throughout its creeping build, the track is washed with a backdrop of rubbery synths and saxophone bursts as Le Bon punctuates her glinting vocals: “Take your gloves off / I’m not scared anymore,” she sings. It’s a brief moment where right out of the gate, we’re met with her resilience. But while the overall sense here leans to calmer moments, its contrasts are just as inspiring. Third single, “Remembering Me,” is a playful switch up. With a groove that shares an undeniable resemblance to David Bowie, it’s an unexpected high point. The refreshing angle of Le Bon’s recent work, though, is that there isn’t a desire for bold production and that’s because these tracks stand confidently on their own. These moments feel lush and welcoming because Le Bon takes the time to round them into something personal.

Other songs on Pompeii draw a similar feel. Idyllic mid-track, “Harbour,” sways and steadily ticks along while the sun-kissed “Moderation” is the album’s strongest, most accessible track. But a significant part of Pompeii’s allure comes directly from Le Bon herself. Written around perspective and scrutinizing the depths of human nature, she nudges us to try and unpack what these tracks have to offer. The gift here isn’t one steady answer to anything she’s addressing. She reminds us that while there’s chaos in uncertainty and change, it’s a process that’s also capable of holding rare beauty if you’re willing to look. In Pompeii’s press release, Le Bon asks, “What would be your last gesture?” — and it’s a striking question to ponder at that even while we can’t say for sure what destiny holds, are we still willing to leave a meaningful mark in this world?

Pompeii concludes on an elegy to love with “Wheel.” While the track winds down and saunters to a triumphant close, it’s not only a fitting send off, but it’s what Le Bon muses at that hits home: “I do not think that you love yourself / I’d take you back to school / And teach you right / How to want a life / But, it takes more time than you’d tender.” It’s learning what it takes to embrace love, but acknowledging there isn’t a defined formula to make it succeed. In these closing moments, Le Bon mulls over a lot, but even despite the malaise we may encounter trying to recognize the uncertainties of our existence, we’re reminded more than ever that if we listen closely, we may just be lucky enough to uncover an answer.

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