It's tempting to play spot-the-influences and who-do-they-sound-like? when listening to Good Children Go to Heaven, the debut album by France's Tahiti Boy and the Palmtree Family. Reference points abound: late-'60s Zombies/Kinks/Beatles/SMiLE-era Brian Wilson, random '70s FM radio/classic rock and power pop bits, melody-obsessed pianistic crooners (Elton, Hornsby, Folds), and present-day comparisons galore (Animal Collective, Vampire Weekend -- although the group's publicity material prefers to cite Of Montreal and Flaming Lips, not to mention Michel Legrand and Serge Gainsbourg). It's impossible to stop playing those games even after several listenings, but Tahiti Boy (Juilliard-trained French keyboardist/vocalist/composer David Sztanke) and the Palmtree Family (a cast of French musicians plus several guests), in the end, emerge as a supremely rewarding, fresh new voice within the neo-psych-chamber pop world, originals in spite of themselves. Sung in English and rife with stately cellos, chirpy flutes, dreamy organs, phosphorescent piano, driving, angular guitars, and lustrous vocal harmonies, Good Children Go to Heaven is a headphoner's delight. The frothy opening track, "1973," is more 1968 -- a great lost nugget from the Zombies' Odessey and Oracle? -- while the sleepy "That Song" rides on an eerie low bass rumble that accentuates the melancholy hopelessness in guest Tunde Adebimpe's (of TV on the Radio) guest vocal. At the other end of the moodiness and adrenaline spectrum, "When I Miss You" takes off at light speed and only briefly relents, all garagey fuzz and breakneck drums yet a minimalist's dream in the lyrics department -- nothing but "When I miss you, how I miss you" repeated ad infinitum. "Holiday School Program" could have come from the early Bee Gees (although the Gibbs would never declare it "a waste of time to think a song can change the world"); "Brooklyn" is simplistic and airy (in a good, Graham Nash-like way), a la-la hum-along of yearning and doubt ("We only have a few years left, to realize if time is ahead or behind/You know we died together before"); and "You Make Me Blush," with vocal by Camille Clerc (Tahiti Boy seems to prefer something of an open-door policy regarding who does what) is a pop-soul ballad worthy of classic Motown. Four bonus tracks (the album was released with 12 tracks in Europe), including a Para One remix of "1973," fit right in and whet the appetite for what's to come next.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin