Beam Beam

With a sound best described as Belle & Sebastian meets Stereolab with heavy doses of Joni Mitchell and Donovan thrown in for good measure, Beam is first and foremost a vessel for the beautiful French drawl of singer-songwriter Helene Renaut. Though the group’s other three members give Beam a haunting atmosphere that is impeccably suited for the cathartic lyrical content, the main focus of this album — its real source of appeal — comes straight from Helene herself. Her thick accent adds an irresistible charm to every last one of these songs, never feeling like a tired or overemphasised shtick. The music sometimes boarders on twee, and though it results in some of the album’s best songs, like the chamber pop bounce of "California Cradled You” or the breezy "Les Anges n’ont pas d’Aisles” (the only track sung entirely in her native French), there is a much stronger focus on dark psychedelic pop that drives the album and gives it its real weight. "Jet Lagged,” "Circles” and "We Look at the Sun,” the latter of which could’ve easily been on either of the last two Delgados records, are both imaginative and strong enough to make up for the album’s several lulls. (Antenna Farm)