The release of Ou Est Les Swimming Pool’s debut album 'The Golden Year' is remarkable in itself, after lead singer Charlie Haddon tragically jumped to his death at Belgium’s Pukkelpop Festival in August. Harrowing alone, the suicide was all the more tragic given the young musicians were on the cusp of global recognition, with their dramatic shoot to fame over the past year.
But bandmates Joe Hutchinson and Caan Capan’s decision to continue with the release is a commendable move. Their hard work and real talent deserves to be heard; electro-pop fans will quickly covet this slick, engrossing album.
The Golden Year is an immaculate record, polished and vibrant. This assessment bears no concessions to the sensitive circumstances in which the album was delivered. I listened objectively, ignoring my sympathies to the band, and I liked what I heard.
Haddon said of the album, “It’s our first...so we thought if we could ever get away with making a party album, we could do it with this one.” It is a party album, and it’s at its best when following this ethos. The three standout tracks are the big synth-pop dance tracks – “Dance the Way I Feel”, “Jackson’s Last Stand” and “These New Knights”.
They’re far more “up-tempo”, to borrow Hadden’s words, than the electro-ballads that fill the rest, and they’re so catchy that you ignore how similar they sound. I mean it’s kind of unsettling when “Jackson’s Last Stand” replicates the exact tonal progression and arpeggios of “Dance the Way I Feel”, but the sound is so great you welcome a second dose.
“These New Knights” thuds along with a pounding bassline and clambering chorus melody that stays stuck in your head for hours. The addictive “Dance the Way I Feel” was their debut single, a wise move as its shot like a rocket up the Australian charts.
The other strongly “dance” track is “Answers”. It’s the most ecclectic, with buzzing electronica overlayed with RnB style vocals that sound peculiar at moments accenting Haddon’s English twang. I’m not entirely sure it works, but it’s interesting.
The less-dancey tracks are still sure to be played widely. “The Key” sparkles with an engaging chorus, as does the ballad-style “You Started”, all yearning strings and nostalgic feel. “Outside” is pared-back, simple and works really well.
Although the tracks span different styles, the album feels cohesive; all tracks are varnished with the same slick electro gloss.
The euphoric album is an explosion of light and life, jarring nightmarishly with its morbid context. It’s certainly a bittersweet experience, getting absorbed by tracks you know are their first and likely last.
Ou Est Les Swimming Pool have offered a strong album in The Golden Year, particularly given its their debut. Not much of it feels like filler, few tracks feel superfluous. If the album showcases anything, it’s that the band would not be one-hit -wonders. Like most of their listeners, I’m going to hope Haddon’s death does not render them one-record-wonders. Because as The Golden Year shows, their wonder is spun through dedicated effort, that realises their natural talent as song-writers and producers.
Highlights :: “Dance the Way I Feel”, “Jackson’s Last Stand” and “These New Knights”.