Ever since recording her Mercury-prize-nominated 2003 debut, Quixotic, vocalist Martina Topley-Bird has sought to craft singular esoteric landscapes via subtle genre hopping (soul, jazz, trip-hop, and alt-rock among them) paired with the exotic, rhapsodic lull of her voice, to lesser or greater effect. Her chill-out style occasionally runs the risk of fading into the background or, as has been pointed out in the past, lurking too deep in Morcheeba territory, but when Bird’s acute observations and lush melodies are on, they’re dead on.
The Blue God, produced by Danger Mouse, features some of Bird’s most inventive and hard-hitting songs to date. Kick-of single “Carnies” finds Bird — a Tricky alum and past collaborator with artists as Josh Homme, Primus, Gorillaz, and the John Spencers Blues Explosion — celebrating the youthful enchantment of the fair paired with the childhood anxieties that a carnival can conjure.
Album highlights “Baby Blue” and “Valentine” wrap Bird’s sumptuous ’60s-throwback harmonies in noir-ish, reverb-laden guitars and echoed sneer drums to great effect. Meanwhile, the effectively creepy and fuzzed-out “Something to Say” and whirling dervish of “Snowman” not only highlight Danger Mouse’s and Bird’s talents as collaborative songwriters but also the dexterity of The Blue God as a whole.
The build-up on tracks like “April Grove” and “Razor Tongue” promise a release that simply isn’t delivered, and the supermarket-jingle of “Da Da Da Da” feels too inconsequential in the shadow of the stronger tracks surrounding it. But The Blue God is nonetheless a worthy successor to Quixotic, if not a better album entirely.