Seventh Tree (Mute)

Eight years ago, English electronic act Goldfrapp (singer Alison Goldfrapp and composer Will Gregory) introduced themselves with Felt Mountain, a collection of moody, John Barry–inspired numbers that positioned the duo as logical heirs to Portishead. On subsequent discs, however, Goldfrapp switched gears, making seamy, glammy electropop grooves more suited for stripper poles than imaginary spy films. But during “Monster Love” — one of many airy, gently paced songs from the group's fourth offering, Seventh Tree — the singer coos, “Everything comes around/Bringing us back again.” And indeed, the folky, pastoral Seventh Tree harks back to Goldfrapp's roots — although it's not quite as much a return to Felt Mountain as a saunter through the sun-kissed meadows below.

The best news here: Goldfrapp's lilt is lovelier and more vulnerable than ever, especially on the Liz Fraser–conjuring “Little Bird” and the deliciously glum “Eat Yourself.” Shame, then, that the music doesn't house it in any particularly compelling way. Eight orchestras' worth of sweeping strings, acoustic guitar, pillowy piano, beats that nibble at the edges of songs, and dollops of canned psychedelia rarely add up to anything substantial. Strangely charm-free, Seventh Tree instead floats away to the land of inconsequential background sound. Snoozing off in the sun has never been so easy.

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