It can be quite the damning experience to have a debut album become a new classic.
In the same way J.K. Rowling’s new work will always be compared to “Harry Potter," Hercules and Love Affair faces the same dilemma. The 2008 self-titled debut Hercules and Love Affair garnered critical acclaim out the wazoo and took the no. 1 track of 2008 on music-site overlord Pitchfork.com. That being said, Hercules and Love Affair’s newest effort and follow-up album Blue Songs, has some considerably high expectations to live up to.
Blue Songs starts with the melancholy thumping of disco that made Hercules and Love Affair a stalwart of the dance floor. However, it never takes off past the beat. The first track “Painted Eyes” keeps the body moving, but feels like a tease of what the rest of the album holds, a trend which continues with each track. There’s always the feeling that something is waiting with the next song, but nothing notable ever materializes.
The whole album is chalked full of pedestrian tracks. Most of the songs reach the point of suitable dancing music, but that’s about as far as it gets. There’s not a driving, enticing force in the songs of Blue Songs. The most surprising aspect of the album lies with the calmness of the middle tracks “Blue Boy” and “Blue Song” and the closing TV on the Radio-esque, political song “It’s Alright," which all chime with a downtrodden surrealism. But again, the songs never result in anything past the spectrum of being more than alright.
Hercules and Love Affair debut chimed with the stunning echo of an archetype renaissance church; Blue Songs takes the time-smudged blueprints, draws new arbitrary sketches, and while the reconstruction rings similar, the structure isn’t nearly as sound.