Cate Le Bon - Reward

Paul Ray
May 24, 2019
[art pop]

A quietly devastating, introspective album

In Reward, Cate Le Bon opens up emotionally, to stunning effect. There’s an aura of intense loneliness permeating the silences and restraint in every track here - the  clipped, wordless sighing accompanied by those saxophones in Miami, the increasingly unstable tuning of Home To You, the feeling of a spiralling, unravelling mind in The Light. It feels like she’s mourning something, and it’s different from other Cate Le Bon albums in that the trauma isn’t abstracted into surreal post punk frenzies or cryptic wordplay. On 2016’s Crab Day, it felt like there was pain hidden somewhere in lyrics like “Love is not love if it’s a coathanger,” but the texture of the emotion was hidden behind a veil. On Reward, the pain is laid bare in the form of plaintive saxophones, bittersweet chords, slower tempos.

I do find it an incredibly sad album, although there’s a sense of hope in the last track, a resolve to love again amid whatever trauma is clouding these songs. It might be a conventional way to end an introspective album like this, but I think it provides a beautiful sense of balance, the idea that the pain of this album might possibly be a closed chapter, something which can be moved on from. A beautiful album.


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