Published Oct 15, 2019Vagabon's Lætitia Tamko is looping back; her self-titled second album is riddled with synths and curious, searching house-pop that's peripherally aware of R&B and West African guitars. It's good both for bobbing heads and bopping feet — both for being alone-alone, and alone-around-others, too.
As the self-produced beats repeat themselves, so does Tamko (even the self-title is a repetition). Choruses and half-lines re-emerge like driftwood. "Only with grace I make you a flood in my—" she sings on "Water Me Down," after "Flood"'s "I want to make you / a flood / in my hands." She repeats and repeats, tumbling into rumination, a spell-like repetition that matches the mysticism of the first song's title: "Full Moon in Gemini."
Because Tamko is lucid about the track she runs around — "I know / Even if I run from it I'm still in it" — she also counts changes as she laps them. She sees a former paramour "but I didn't feel a thing / It's crazy how the heart can mend / All alone / On its own."
Familiar with repetition as part of natural cycles, Tamko greets the ghost still loitering "by the door where I left you on the third date." On "Wits About You," she sings into the past, all sweet, "You live in my heart / And you'll stay," a spooky promise that is reminiscent of Lorde's "Writer in the Dark."
The best song, "Home Soon," works in part because it's a respite from the rest of the album's bumping limbs. Violins chatter as a cello makes a dark, humid ground for the fog of her voice to waft over. "I give it all away," she seeps, almost imperceptibly, but when she repeats herself again, she conjures herself. She draws deep power from beyond, and her voice surges with the strings like the end of a white night.
Like her song, Tamko isn't interested in success in isolation: "I was invited to the party / They won't let my people in / Well then never mind, never mind, never mind / We don't wanna go to your function." Instead, she sees necessity to the right kinds of spreading out. "All the women I meet are tired [...] They get ready to kill with their love."
Vagabon's final song is a reprise of the first, the same lyrics eclipsed by voices that are not Tamko's own — someone else will always be feeling this feeling. There will always be another orange moon. (Nonesuch)