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In the summer of 2009, "Shadows," a four-minute-three-second slice of sweet and dreamy, though slightly dark indie-pop by Williamsburg band Au Revoir Simone, provided the soundtrack for a million makeout sessions between music geeks with a fetish for moody twee melodies and their short-term romantic interests.
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Like many Simone songs, that darling little ditty is a starry-eyed minisymphony of swayingly catchy keyboard lines, hypnotically crystalline vocal harmonies, and reticently romantic lyrics straight from the notebook of your most poetic college crush.
"You tell me/That it's getting better," sings Simone vocalist and keyboard player Heather D'Angelo, the tone of her voice cool and measured, yet still softly sympathetic. "But every time that we say goodnight/I'm haunted by your eyes/And how long they've been crying."
Twinkling, mysterious, mesmerizing — "Shadows" is a musical moment made for sipping warm wine, staring at a purple-black sky full of stars, and swapping spit with someone who's still essentially a stranger. And that's precisely the vibe that this all-girl trio — D'Angelo and fellow vocalist-keyboardists Erika Forster and Annie Hart — has been giving off since joining together near the end of 2003.
A self-described "dreamy electronic keyboard band," Au Revoir Simone officially debuted with 2005's Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation, an eight-track album partly recorded in a shower stall. Less than two years later, D'Angelo, Forster, and Hart returned with their sophomore effort, The Bird of Music, studded with spooky love songs like "Fallen Snow," "Night Majestic," and "Stars." Then in 2009, the threesome unveiled its third album, Still Night, Still Light, the breakthrough that gave birth to "Shadows" and those million makeout sessions.
Yet in the 32 months since releasing Still Night, Still Light, this keyboard band has kept conspicuously quiet. Of course, Simone hasn't disappeared entirely, recording a one-off track for Ray Bans' Raw Sounds project, curated by ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr; occasionally playing marquee gigs such as last summer's Escape to New York music festival; and even taking on remix work, including a hauntingly pretty version of Washed Out's "Amor Fati." But the group still hasn't given music geeks with a fetish for moody twee melodies that one thing for which they've been pining so desperately — another Au Revoir Simone album.
So why such a long delay, especially after the shimmering success of Simone's last collection of dark and dreamy indie-pop? "Well, we're actually taking quite a bit of a break while Heather finishes school," Hart tells New Times. "She's getting her second bachelor's degree in science."
In addition to allowing D'Angelo to seek higher education, though, Au Revoir Simone's "bit of a break" has also freed up enough time (approximately nine months) for Hart to give birth to a little boy named Henry Hart Marvin — not to mention the opportunity for all of Simone's members to actively pursue musical experiences outside their main relationship.
"You know, Heather doesn't have a side project," Hart laughs. "Her side project is school. But Erika does solo work under her own name, Erika Spring. And she just had a split single with Violens. It's really good. So I definitely recommend it!
"And I'm also in a band with my husband [Doug Marvin]. We're called Pursesnatchers and we had an album come out this year," she says, adding, "So we're all staying busy."
Still, between making babies, recording non-Au Revoir Simone stuff, and writing term papers, D'Angelo, Forster, and Hart have made sure to schedule semiannual songwriting sessions for their as-yet-untitled fourth album. "We spent this whole summer writing songs for our next record," Hart reveals. "And we didn't completely finish. But we got a lot done."
Even with that creative burst, however, she insists that the new Simone record hasn't really moved beyond the earliest phases of development. "We're just writing. Totally just writing. We have not recorded anything. We only did some demos."
Moreover, she says, there is no planned completion date, no tentative release, no pressure. The timeline simply cannot be defined. "The next chance we have to work on the album is January when Heather's on break again," Hart explains. "And then after that, we'll get together in May.
"Plus, there will always be little hiccups along the way," she laughs. "So I can't really tell you anything about the immediate future."
Nevertheless, Hart and her bandmates aren't bothered or bummed out by these long, drawn-out gaps between sessions and the slow, near-glacial pace of their progress. In fact, that's exactly how the ladies of Au Revoir Simone like it.
"We have this really strict criteria for our songs," Hart says. "Everybody's got to love it from start to finish. And that's a lot to accomplish.
"Basically, we're just trying to make an album we love sonically and artistically," she explains. "So we just work on a song forever. It's this really long process. And I would even say arduous, if it wasn't so fun," she laughs. "But we have so much fun playing with sounds and structure and making everything feel magical."
Simply, the world will probably be waiting on Au Revoir Simone to fall in love with its entire album from start to finish (not to mention make "everything feel magical") for many, many more months. Maybe even another couple of years. But at least when the finished product finally arrives in our collective iTunes folder, it's virtually guaranteed to be just as coolly pristine and beautifully poppy as Verses, Bird of Music, and Still Night, Still Light.
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