In 2008, a like-minded friend hipped me to the self-titled debut from Hercules and Love Affair.  That album’s electropop sensibilities, along with vocal contributions from Antony Hegarty made clear that this was a group to keep an eye (or ear) on.  Since that debut disc, they’ve been busy remixing for other artists, including Chromeo, Poly Styrene, Cut Copy and Goldfrapp among others.Finally, Hercules and Love Affair took some time to focus on their own work, and the result is Blue Songs, the group’s second full length out now in the US on the Moshi Moshi label.With Blue Songs, Hercules and Love Affair have unfortunately suffered from the so-called “sophomore slump.”  While the album is not without it’s high points, overall it is fairly predictable and uninteresting.  The bulk of the album cuts are what one might call “house lite” – utilizing the rhythmic and vocal cliches of house music, albeit in a somewhat less aggressive style.  This is most evident in tracks like “Painted Eyes,” “My House,” Answers Come in Dreams,” “Falling” and ”Step Up.”  While the band is competent in their execution of this house lite motif, the music’s repetition and lack of innovation fails to generate interest.There are bright spots throughout the album.  Yet while tracks such as “Leonora,” “Boy Blue” and “Blue Songs” take the band into more interesting musical territory, they often lack that certain je ne sais quoi that would take them over the edge.  This seems to result from a combination of arrangement and production, which leads me to believe that perhaps with a stronger team behind the the boards, Hercules and Love Affair could make some pretty fantastic music.

The album’s high point is unquestionably the closer, “It’s Alright” – a fragile, atmospheric piano ballad that recalls bands such as The XX.  Perhaps not surprisingly then, the band’s take on The XX’s “Shelter” (included as one of 10 bonus cuts on the 2-disc US release) is a flawless rendition.

Fans of house and more traditional club music might find Blue Songs a refreshing take on the genre.  Although I found this portion of the album rather boring, the moments where Hercules and Love Affair stretch out into other areas lead me to believe that while Blue Songs may be a generally unsatisying record, they have the potential to really wow us down the road.

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