Expensive Sounds For Nice People
After the brash, buzzing electro-house of his first two albums, 2010’s Popular Music and 2012’s Different Faces, Canadian producer Felix Cartal reinvented himself on 2018’s Next Season, shifting from big-room aggression to lush, melodic future house fleshed out with a host of guest vocalists. Expensive Sounds for Nice People is cut from the same luxurious cloth: sparkling pianos, intricate percussive details, hi-def synths, and effects that render silky chord changes in dynamic, multidimensional sound. Once again, he’s assisted by a number of guests, some well-known (Lights, Sophie Simmons), others less so, yet no less captivating behind the mic. What his singers tend to share in common is low-key intimacy and a level gaze, delivering hard-won lessons in thoroughly relatable fashion. “I used to be naive, thinking life was just a breeze/But the highs and lows set me free,” sings Fjord in a gentle lilt on the opening “The Life,” rendering self-knowledge in unusually feel-good terms; on “Mine,” the grit in Sophie Simmons’ voice brings extra warmth to her nostalgic look back at young love. The biggest difference this time is that Cartal lavishes even more attention on the vocal chops that have long been his signature. On “Layover,” for instance, he slices, moulds, and polishes an extended a cappella into sleek, undulating shapes that adorn a bittersweet midtempo house groove like golden filigree. The way they’ve been chopped, the words are no longer quite intelligible; instead, they seem to be singing in a secret, invented language, one that renders the song’s potential meaning all the more personal—it’s a mirror for whatever you might need to hear in it at that very moment.