Good Humor starts out similar to Saint Etienne’s previous loungy, electronic albums with the track “Woodcabin,” but soon arrives with a sound comparable to that of the Cardigans. “Split Screen,” “Lose That Girl,” and “Erica America” are examples of the similarity between the two groups. However, Good Humor is a step above and ahead of the Cardigans. There’s quite a quality found throughout the album that shows Saint Etienne’s broad range. Sub Pop has once again outdone itself by signing the British pop band and adding quality to their lineup.
The album seems to mainly revel in the music of the ’60s and ’70s. “Sylvie” (also released as a single) represents the ’70s with its power ballad-ish piano intro that leads into a beautiful ABBA-esque love song like an anthem of the past. Sarah Cracknell’s gorgeous, sensual voice adds an incredible warmth to each song throughout the album. It’s probably her voice that might give rise to comparisons to the Cardigans. The powder blue interior of my Plymouth Reliant K car has never felt so comfortable as I listen to this modern version of late ’70s dance music while heading to class every morning.
“Mr. Donut” sounds like John and Paul had written the piece with Lennon’s piano and McCartney’s organ from “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Only the soft female voice separates the song from a Beatles accomplishment. “Goodnight Jack” could be the soundtrack for an old undercover detective show, with the car revving under spy-ish guitar riffs at the beginning of the track. The looping bass line gives a sense of chase while the synthesizers give the sense of danger. The musicianship is rich in each song and it’s not until I listen to the LP on headphones that I hear every little sound carefully layered on top of each other.
There’s a definite cocktail feel to the album, with calming vocals and smooth instrumentation (consisting primarily of keyboard flourishes and reverbed guitars). The chill factor is moderately high even on the more upbeat tracks. Saint Etienne is another appropriate example of Sub Pop veering towards a more refined style of music.
Written by Nolan Shigley.