Being a muse must wear on a girl. Keeping up with the demands of captivating beauty, struggling to look at once contemplative and melancholic, forever balancing cigarette holders between two slender fingers—it can’t be easy. But the ability to lure is a powerful gift, worth taking on the downsides of the persona, as Welsh chanteuse Cate Le Bon proves with the bewitching CYRK.
Her voice is her greatest weapon. Decadent. Smokier than it was on her 2010 debut of polite folk but creamier than German predecessor Nico’s. Her accent tugs at every syllable, rounding them out so words stretch into fluid sounds, demanding that we look to what’s happening outside of the vocals for meaning. Sporadic moments of pronunciation confirm that gloominess is shot through with playfulness: “Now is not a good time to leave me alone,” “You’re killing me with empathy,” “On the worst day of his life, he'd still love more things than I like.”
What’s going on under the vocal blanket, though, is constantly in a state of flux, reinstating folk-pop only when Le Bon becomes restless with everything else. Chugging guitars on “Falcon Eyed” are plucked from 70s punk. There’s a meandering spectral waltz for a doomed “Julia.” The concluding couplet, “Ploughing Out Part 1 & 2,” connects the album’s quietest ballad with a tweaky psych sunburst featuring Le Bon’s surprisingly apt impression of Woods’ Jeremy Earl (also Neil Young). Rather than submitting to any sort of classic, tragic archetype, she alludes to one, but then merely pokes at it. She's likely to inspire millions of romantic gestures on Twitter and poetry on Facebook walls.