Au Revoir Simone is a bit of a one-note band, and their latest album, Still Night, Still Light, is a bit of a one-note album. But what a lovely note it is. The album may add little to the trio’s trademark sound (three vintage Casios, what sounds like a very inexpensive drum machine, and endearingly sad, harmony-driven vocals), but Thom Monahan’s production cloaks the whole affair in atmospheric fuzz that makes it a perfect late-night listen. And though it largely eschews the charming, straight-ahead pop songs that highlighted Au Revoir Simone’s first two records, this is inarguably the band’s most coherent, filler-free effort to date. Here their homogeneity is finally a strength, as Still Night (like St. Vincent’s recent Actor) is a boldly effective, album-length mood piece for the post-album digital age.
Given the innate adorableness of three awfully cute girls from Williamsburg playing lo-fi snyth-pop, it’d be easy to dismiss Au Revoir Simone as the indie-rock equivalent of what film critic Nathan Rabin calls the “manic pixie dream girl.” But while the group always seemed too coyly melancholy to be twee, here they sometimes sound genuinely heartbroken. On “Shadows,” they coo, “I’m moving on, I hope you’re coming with me,” seemingly addressing the person from which they’re moving on; similarly, the speaker in “Trace a Line” informs its subject that he’ll “be the end of me.” The lyrics are often hard to decipher beneath all the fuzz, but it’s particularly well-suited fuzz: The startlingly good “Anywhere You Looked” manages to fill Kraftwerk-style mechanics with a sense of real yearning. And the fact that many of the songs have lengthy instrumental passages confirms that Au Revoir Simone is more concerned with conveying emotions than just singing about them. On this count, the album’s a clear success.