Naomi - Aquarium (Mole Listening Pearls)

Aquarium is the third album of Naomi from Berlin. And it is their best one – more pop than ever, and as intriguing as it is exciting. Not that the previous albums (Everyone Loves You, 2002, and Pappelallee, 2004) didn’t get their share of jubilant reviews: The Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s most respected daylies, described Naomis sound as a “perfect balance between bittersweet harmonies and relaxed rhythms which seemed to be the privilege of Air and the Pet Shop Boys”; the KulturSpiegel enthused about “elegant, dreamy but always modern electro pop”; and the Rolling Stone gave four stars – meaning “fabulous”. But a band who made it onto more than 70 compilations worldwide must have something special, don’t they? So now: Aquarium. As athmospherically engrossing as you’ll expect, but by new means completely. The duo abandon their earlier love of wide soundscapes – hence no predominant samples this time, no echo loops and padded sounds. Instead we get reduced, almost minimal arrangements, guitars and Wurlitzer piano, Mellotron and sparse synthesizers over dry hiphop beats. No instrumentals anymore, not “tracks”, but songs, quite traditonally structured, and they’re all hits, just listen to the first single “Another Bite Of The Apple”. What was hinted at on Pappelallee has now blossomed over the stretch of a whole album: Bernd Lechler and Nico Tobias are fantastic songwriters. With Aquarium they’ve risen from the pigeonhole of Downbeat music for good. And they’re pleasant songs. Striking but deep, chiselled but emotional, and though definitely weird at times, they still seem to sort the world out. Which sounds like a contradiction in terms, but Naomi pull it off with an idiosyncratic mix of luminous melodies and equanimous understatement, big emotion and laconic detail. Add to that lyrics that will get you, song characters you know from your bathroom mirror. The abandonded lover in “Perfect Day In Hell”, writing helplessly to his ex from the emotional desert. The daydreamer in “Personal Big Bang” whose future seems so bright he’ll never get going. Mind you: “Needle On The Record” and “How Many Loves” make it clear that you can dance to confusion.

By the way: “Aqurium” was mixed by Patrik Majer (got the “Echo 2006″ as “best German Producer”, produced “Wir sind Helden ” among others) and Peter Schmidt (Blumfeld, Rosenstolz).

Prelistening: Aquarium