When COVID-19 lockdowns prohibited Welsh Dadaist Cate Le Bon to fly back to the United States from Iceland, she found herself returning to her homeland to create a sixth studio album, Pompeii, a collection of avant-garde art pop far removed from the 2000s jangly guitar indie she once hung her hat on. In Cardiff, recording in a house “on a street full of seagulls,” as she tells Apple Music, “I instinctively knew where all the light switches were and I knew all these sounds that the house makes when it breathes in the night.” Created with co-producer Samur Khouja, the album obscures linear nostalgia to confront uncertainty and modern reality, with stacked horns, saxophones, and synths. “For a while I was flitting between despair and optimism,” she says. “I realized that those are two things that don't really have or prompt action. So I tried to lean into hope and curiosity instead of that. Then I kept thinking about the idea that we are all forever connected to everything. That’s probably the theme that ties together the record.” Below, Cate Le Bon breaks down Pompeii, track by track. “Dirt on the Bed” “This song is very set in the house. It's being haunted by yourself in a way—this idea of time travel and storing things inside of you that maybe don't serve you but you still have these memories inside of you that you're unconscious of. It was the first song that we started working on when Samur arrived in Wales. It’s pretty linear, but it blossoms in a way that becomes more frantic, which was in tune with the lockdown in a literal and metaphorical sense.” “Moderation” “I was reading an essay by an architect called Lina Bo Bardi. She wrote an essay in 1958 called ‘The Moon’ and it's about the demise of mankind, this chasm that's opened up between technical and scientific progress and the human capacity to think. All these incremental decisions that man has made that have led to climate disaster and people trying to get to the moon, but completely disregarding that we've got a housing crisis, and all these things that don't really make sense. We've lost the ability to account for what matters, and it will ultimately be the demise of man. We know all this, and yet we still crave the things that are feeding into this.” “French Boys” “This song definitely started on the bass guitar, of wanting this late-night, smoky, neon escapism. It’s a song about lusting after something that turns into a cliché. It’s this idea of trying to search for something to identify yourself [with] and becoming encumbered with something. I really love the saxophone on this one in the instrumental. It is a really beautiful moment between the guitars and the saxophones.” “Pompeii” “This is about putting your pain somewhere else, finding a vessel for your pain, removing yourself from the horrors of something, and using it more as a vessel for your own purposes. It’s about sending your pain to Pompeii and putting your pain in a stone.” “Harbour” “I made a demo with [Warpaint’s] Stella Mozgawa, who plays drums on the record. We spent a month together at her place in Joshua Tree, just jamming out some demos I had, and this was one of them that became a lot more realized. The effortless groove that woman puts behind everything, it's just insane to me. She was encouraging me to put down a bassline. That playfulness of the bass is probably a direct product of her infectiousness, but the song is really about 'What do you do in your final moment? What is your final gesture? Where do you run when you know there's no point running?'” “Running Away” “‘Running Away’ was another song that I worked on with Stella in Joshua Tree. It's about disaffection, I suppose, and trying to figure out whether it's a product of aging, where you know how to stop yourself from getting hurt by switching something off, and whether that's a useful tool or not. It’s an exploration of knowing where the pitfalls of hurt are, because you have a bit more experience. Is it a useful thing to avoid them or not?” “Cry Me Old Trouble” “Searching for your touch songs of faith, when you tap into this idea that you're forever connected to anything, there's a danger—the guilt that is imposed on people through religion, this idea of being born a sinner. Of separating those two things of feeling like you are forever connected to everything without that self-sacrifice or martyrdom. It’s about being connected to old trouble and leaning into that, and this connection to everything that has come before us. We are all just inheriting the trouble from generations before.” “Remembering Me” “It’s really about haunting yourself. When the future's dark and you don't really know what's going to happen, people start thinking about their legacy and their identity, and all those things that become very challenged when everything is taken away from you and all the familiar things that make you feel like yourself are completely removed. [During the pandemic] a lot of people had the internet to express themselves and forge an identity, to make them feel validated.” “Wheel” “In one sense, it is very much about the time trials of loving someone, and how that can feel like the same loop over and over, but I think the language is a little bit different. It's a little more direct than the rest of the record. I was struggling to call people over the pandemic. What do you say? So, I would write to people in a diary, not with any idea that I would send it to them, but just to try and keep this sense of contact in my head. A lot of this was pulled from letters that I would write my friend. Instead of 'Dear Diary' it was 'Dear Bradford,' just because I missed him, but couldn't pick up the phone.”

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada