Listen to Goldfrapp’s new single “Rocket” on their MySpace, and you’ll pick up on the fact that Head First (due March 23) is quite possibly the U.K. duo’s catchiest, poppiest album yet. “We wanted to write songs that had a simplicity to them and that just got to the point quicker,” singer Alison Goldfrapp (pictured) tells EW as she sits in a sparely furnished downtown NYC hotel room beside Will Gregory, the other half of Goldfrapp, earlier this week. In rapid succession she name-drops such ’80s chart titans as Billy Joel, Pat Benatar, and Van Halen. “I suppose what was great about those [artists’] songs was that they had a kind of directness that gave them an epic, celebratory feeling.”

Gregory chimes in with another key influence for Head First. “With an ABBA song, it feels like you’re getting the full L. B. Mayer production with a cast of thousands and no expense spared on wardrobe. That kind of lushness is something that we were inspired by.”

Retro cheese isn’t the only element in Goldfrapp’s listening diet these days — Alison Goldfrapp is just as likely to reference the works of minimalist composer Steve Reich, particularly his “Music for 18 Musicians,” as a source of inspiration for their new material. Still, all those ABBA and Van Halen tunes had their effect. Head First‘s singalong hooks and day-glo synths stand in marked contrast to the unhurried, pastoral sounds of Goldfrapp’s previous album, 2008’s Seventh Tree. “We sort of feel blasé about writing ballads,” says Gregory. “Well, we know how to do it. We’ve done quite a lot of those.”

The pair recorded Head First in an unusually short six-month period last year at home studios in Bath and London. A break in the middle gave them time to write the score for Nowhere Boy, the young John Lennon biopic making waves at this year’s Sundance festival. “It was quite difficult, really, because of not trying to tread on the Lennon legacy,” says Gregory.

As for their previously reported work with Christina Aguilera, they say they joined her in the studio about a year ago to collaborate on a song that may or may not be released on Aguilera’s upcoming Bionic. “We didn’t finish it, so who knows what will happen,” Goldfrapp says. Adds Gregory: “It was very nice to be asked, very nice to work with her…And then we haven’t heard where it is, so we’re sort of curious to know.” (A rep for Aguilera’s label was unable to confirm whether the song will make Bionic‘s final track listing.)

For now, they’re looking forward to booking a tour, including a just-announced June 27 date at L.A.’s Hollywood Bowl. “We’re going to start talking to our lighting man,” says Goldfrapp. “Can he make me do star jumps somehow — virtual star jumps, because I can’t actually do them? And some pyrotechnics.” She cracks up laughing. “We definitely want it to be a show, and something good to come and see, with our very small, meager budget, though. So it’ll be sort of tin foil and plastic bottles stuck together.”

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