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House

Le Concorde

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Album Review

Le Concorde have always been a backwards looking pop band. Whether it’s the finely constructed chamber pop of their self-titled debut EP from 2004, the very slick and '80s-sounding album Universe and Villa, or 2007’s similarly glossy EP Suite, the band’s main man, Stephen Becker, has always looked to the past for inspiration; and mostly to the perfectly constructed pop of U.K. bands like Prefab Sprout, Scritti Politti, or the Lilac Time, but also to groups like the Zombies and the Left Banke. Despite this, the group has always managed to sound fresh and more inspired by their influences, rather than in thrall to them. On 2010’s album House, Becker is still heavily influenced by his idols (David Gamson of Scritti Politti produces some songs and adds synth and programming), but the record sounds much more modern. The band’s sound is still rooted in Becker's remarkably pure vocals that are equal parts boyish (Green of Scritti) and sophisticated (Paddy from Prefab) and his hooky melodies, but the addition of clunky drum machines, Auto-Tune, sequencers, modern retro-synths, and computer tricks boosts the pop quotient and gives the songs more punch and immediacy. Some of them you can even imagine sneaking onto a (very) adventurous pop radio station’s playlist. It’s the exact same move Becker's influences made at one time by leaping into the mainstream and adopting the sound of the day but twisting it to a unique style or vision. Le Concorde manage this better than some of their antecedents, and there are no embarrassing moments or dated sounds on House; just really great, slick and breezy pop. From the disco-smooth “Sometimes It’s Hard”, the sunshine bright “Make Our Move” (which comes complete with Prince-like synth bass swoops), or the quietly melancholy “Kisses with Comet Tails” to the bubbly “The Movement of Cherry Blossom Shadows” that explodes into a chorus that would make the New Radicals blush, the album is full of high-concept production, imagination, and hooks both melodic and sonic. With House, Becker and his crew of collaborators (which includes Chicago house legend Vince Lawrence) have crafted a pop record that equals the best moments of the artists who inspired them. That Le Concorde will never have even a small fraction of the acclaim or notice bands like Prefab Sprout or Scritti Politti had isn't down to any quality issues, it’s just a sign of the times. Besides, you get the feeling that Green or Stephen Duffy would love House, and that’s probably enough for Becker.

Biography

Formed: 2003 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Le Concorde is the second group name adopted by singer/songwriter Stephen Becker, following his previous one, Post Office. Becker, a Northwestern University Ph.D. who grew up in Seattle, had two album releases as Post Office, 1996's Public Displays of Affection and 2001's Chris Stamey-produced Fables in Slang on the indie label Spade Kitty Records while based in New York. He then relocated to Chicago and launched Le Concorde, employing brothers Ellis Clark and Tom Clark of Epicycle as well as Ed...
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House, Le Concorde
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