Coeur de Pirate, ‘Roses’ review

FS-contributing editor Mark Sullivan has written an extensive review of CDP’s Roses, for your pleasure:

‘Roses’ has been awaited since Béatrice Martin told CBC’s ‘Q’ programme in April 2014 that she was ‘writing songs in English now’. Its headline composition, the unique ‘Oublie-moi’ / ‘Carry on’, twin songs in French and English, was revealed with some panache on ‘La Voix’ on 5 April. Several songs were performed at the 2015 summer festivals. Despite this, the actual release on 28 August was quite an event, certainly for those who followed CdP’s twitter, where she marked progress to release almost daily.

The full album – Coeur de Pirate followers need the ‘De Luxe’ version with 15 tracks – has some unusual and attractive new songs, a couple of disappointments, and one surprise. And they are all self-penned; she has explained here that she had the English-language lyrics ‘proof-read’ to ensure that they made sense.

Béatrice starts off with ‘Oceans Brawl’, which begins with the sound of waves. She says this song is inspired by where oceans meet – Cape Horn – though the lyrics seem more a reference to her few wild teenage years -‘Told me lies, told me tales / Lived for bad and hit the rails / Hate you boy with what I know / Picked my love up with my bones / And then I’ll crawl’. This has been her introductory song at recent festivals.

Then comes the ‘instant hit’ ‘Oublie-moi’ which as a single went to the top of the Canadian charts in April. ‘Oublie-moi’ is track 2, the English ‘Carry on’ is 11th on the standard CD, 13th track on the De Luxe album. ‘Oublie-moi’ in particular is an absolute pop classic, likely to be played for years. CdP’s new solo piano version of ‘Oublie-moi’, not on the album, is here.

Third track is ‘Crier tout bas’ which is quite superb – ‘scream in a whisper’ – ‘Et si le jour ne vient pas / Dans la nuit des perdus / Raconte-moi qu’on puisse crier tout bas’. See the video filmed by Kevin Calero in California:

This song puts Béatrice into the class of singers who can perform ‘anthem’ pop well – something that many try but can often fail at. Its first performance, at Echo Beach, Toronto, on 23 May, here, set the tone for a classic.
‘I don’t want to break your heart’ also first played at Toronto, is conventional in sound, despite interesting lyrics. Perhaps for the US market, CdP has kept her tradition of one duet with a male singer per album; in this case the rapper Allen Kingdom has a part which sounds not unlike Jay-Z’s lines in the original version of Alicia Keys’ ‘Empire State of Mind’.

‘Drapeau blanc’, first revealed at Francofolies in July, is about Béatrice’s relationship with her mother, she says. When she rebelled and gave up piano at 13, its distressed her mother, a concert pianist and leading teacher in Montreal. ‘Et j’abdique, j’abandonne, j’en ai brûlé ton drapeau blanc’ …. ‘Silence sur silence qu’on gardait lors des confrontations’. The tune is the least striking of the four songs in French. One looks forward to the writer discussing its lyrics more.

‘Undone’ is she says dedicated to her husband, Alex (the Parisian professional tatooer). Here the lyrics are good but the music less so – again a rather conventional tune.

Then comes perhaps the finest track, ‘Tu oublieras mon nom’ which suggests parting, a frequent CdP subject in the past. ‘Et quand tu parles de moi, c’est la dernière fois / j’éteins, je danserai là-bas / Et tombe encore, tu promets cette fois / Tu oublieras mon nom’.

Béatrice now offers us two excellent songs in English, which reflect her main theme of togetherness and returning, something she now feels is important having her daughter Romy to care for. (‘When I wrote ‘Blonde’ four years ago I was angry’ she now says.) ‘Castaway’, not yet heard live anywhere, offers encouragement to come back: ‘But if it’s fear of love that keeps you out of open arms / The I will leave the light on any trail to come / And you will find your way in any given storm’ (CdP’s proof-reader might have queried ‘any given storm’ as something a Canadian lawyer might write!)

‘The way back home’ reverses the theme, promising always to return: ‘And I’ll find my way back home / Just to read upon the light that’s in your eyes / And if you ever feel alone / Just remember that I’ll be coming back.’

‘Our love’, which follows, is perhaps the one disappointing track – too much percussion and a conventional tune. It may be fine in the USA. There are then two ‘bonus’ tracks, ’The Climb’ (‘I don’t know if I’ll walk / If you’re not by my side’) and ‘Can’t get your love’, which is a very British sort of pop tune, the sort written for a short-career ‘pop star’ to make ‘Record of the Week’ on BBC Radio – but in Béatrice Martin’s hands is enjoyable enough to have been worth putting on the main album.

‘Carry on’ then appears to bookend the album, but on the De Luxe CD there is a second version of ‘Oceans Brawl’ and finally a real surprise: a dance remix of ‘Oublie-moi’ by Felix Cartal, which should put CdP into the clubs. One may guess that this is to avoid someone else doing a remix which Béatrice can’t control, and avoid a repeat of the rather poor 2012 remix of her classic, ‘Place de la République’, on Youtube.

Eight of the tracks were produced in Stockholm by Björn Yttling, the Swedish hit-maker. Three were made in London at Ash Workman’s Church Studios (including ‘Can’t get your love’); and two, notably the lead version of ‘Oceans Brawl’ were produced by Rob Ellis in Bristol, West of England; he added sea sounds and a smooth tonal backing, which the Ash Workman version lacks.

Could the album have been better? The French-language tracks are generally the best, and a 50/50 split would have been more welcome in France and Quebec. If the two ‘bonus’ tracks had been put in the main list, and ‘Our love’ (at least) ditched, Coeur de Pirate’s version of Renaud’s ‘Mistral gagnant’ would have been a popular ‘bonus track’. (See her RTL live studio version here.) At present it is only on the ‘La Bande de Renaud’ album, which CdP fans are unlikely to buy. And I would have imported the best of her covers from her 2014 album ‘Trauma’ – The National’s ‘Slow Show’ perhaps.

Béatrice now has a large selection of songs.. As her set at Francofolies showed, she is better than ever on stage. It will be worth seeing which she decides to highlight on her autumn tour – and how her new English-language numbers fare in America.

Best of 2014 (part 9)

index_20090222_06Looking at the very diverse entries in this “best of 2014” series during the last weeks, we may very well conclude it was an exceptional year when it comes to French music.
But if you are truly honest there is only one Album of the Year. Or at least one Comeback Album of the Year. Or Filles Fragiles/Sourires Favourite Album of the Year.
And that is of course the magnificent album by the great Coralie Clément. Filles favourite for many years she seems to be lost and forgotten but what a comeback she did make!
To check what Guuzbourg wrote about it, see here.
Only one year ago, we were afraid she would be vanished from the music scene with a nice “Joyeux Anniversiare” and we would never hear from here in terms of full albums. But today, on the last day of 2014, we can rejoice ansd say “hurray, the guardian angel of this blog is back!”.

Best of 2014 (part 8)

fillemystereGee. Last year’s choice was an easy one, crisp, inspiring, animating. But 2014? Maybe I’ve missed out on the really wow albums and songs, but … Salome? Nope. Coralie? Naah. Even Vanessa C. sounded like she caught the more-of-the-same disease, and Stéf Lapointe’s Les amours parallèles was, sorry, Guuz, fourteen fragile touches too much, surely the worst Lolita impersonation I’ve heard in many anni horribili. The most consistent, if quite conservative album concept of 2014 doubtless was Fredda’s Le chant de murmures, a coolly slumberous and laidback Americana hommage heading straight to Paris, Texas, including a highly charming cover version of Francoise Hardy’s Träume.

The song of the year is so fuckin’ Eighties bébé disco pop that even the most technically advanced time machine would immediately crash in the stroboscope blizzard. Especially listen to the no-wave guitar. Actually, the song is from 2013, but what the hell. And now try your music recognition app, s’il vous plait.

See You in 2015

Best of the Best (part 6): Nevche

Regular guestposter Adrian Arratoon goes back to his fave track of the year, by Nevche. And looks forward!

Vas-tu freiner? by Nevche was my track of the year, from their Retroviseur album. A haunting, nocturnal, poetic track that was utterly beguiling. The bit where the slightly discordant riti, or Senegalese violin, comes for the first time in was probably the moment of the year in French music for me. The rest of the album is pretty much essential listening too.

2015 already looks bright, listen to the first single of a new album (released next year) by Dominique A:

Best of the Best (part 5): Mina Tindle

Regular guestposter Mark Sullivan picks an exceptional track by Mina Tindle
Mina Tindle’s new album ‘Parades’ hides within it a dance track which must be among the best of 2014 in any language. At Mina’s one appearance in Britain, in London in November, ‘The Curse’ was unknown to most of us the audience until it suddenly began, rather different from her classic style. We stood mesmerized by this unnamed tour de force, with its great instrumental middle part. When Mina (Pauline de Lassus) signed my CD afterwards, I asked her what this extraordinary track was, and she wrote the name for me.

‘The Curse’ is about the idea of rebuilding a relationship (‘Let’s go back to where it felt right’) but then deciding not to (‘And you won’t be around, It won’t hurt so bad’), with the title taken from one line, ‘Magic or curse, I don’t regret’. As a dance track, it deserves a wide audience.

‘The Curse’ is the key song in Mina Tindle’s elegant ‘Green Lagoon’ filmed session, preceded by ‘Pas les saisons’, the much-admired ‘I command’, and ‘Ā Seville’. (Four of the tracks on ‘Parades’ are in English, eight in French.)
‘The Curse’ starts with a run-in at 15m55s. Or watch the song by itself here. Steffen Charron, her bass guitarist, who plays in the film, told me that they were amazed at the perfect location, a restored sand quarry turned nature park just 60 km south of Paris.

A well-filmed performance by Mina of ‘The Curse’ at this July’s FNAC Paris concert is here. It starts at 3m25s after ‘Pas les saisons’. The full set at Paris (40 minutes) is also on YouTube. She does 8 songs: Bells; Ā Seville; Lovely day; Madonne; Too many small things; I command (at 21m35s); Pas les saisons; The Curse (30m56s to 36m00s)

For the background to ‘Parades’ see Mina’s website page. ‘Le Figaro’ now calls her ‘la plus anglophone des chanteuses françaises’.
As if to prove it, here she is singing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on fire’ in Paris last month

Two interviews in English from 2012 (here) and 2014 (here) tell us more about Mina’s background and career. And she is in person charm itself.

Best of 2014 (Part 4): Stéphanie Lapointe

20141112 Stephanie Lapointe ArtworkIt is safe to say that 2014 has produced a bumper crop of Francophone albums. Many of these have appeared in this very blog and some have even been reviewed by yours truly. Mentally I’m whittling a year’s worth of albums to a top 10… And then Guuz announces that this year we’re going to only nominate one album… just one… our choice for the album of 2014…

So… I’ve thought long and hard about my choice and so with apologies to Hôtel Morphée, Chloé Lacasse, Catherine Leduc and Salomé Leclerc, to name but a few of my top 10 – all of whom are arguably responsible for some of the great albums of this (or any) year. Somehow though I already knew the other nine albums on my list were going to be (very, very) good and I was already anticipating their release. Hopefully someone will nominate them (if not you’ll be able to read about them again elsewhere), but my album of the year has to be the one that not only was I totally unprepared for, but also – and to quote Guuz himself – left me more than a little bit shaken in the process…

Montréalaise singer-actress-author and Unicef ambassador Stéphanie Lapointe released her last album back in 2009. This year she released “Les amours parallèles”, an album that manages to both immediately transport the listener back to les années soixante while at the same time brimming with such timeless quality that the songs here could have been written anytime over the past fifty years. Over ten intimate portraits that describe the many facets of love; good and bad, escape, forgiveness, loss, grief and desire, a brief moment in time has been captured and frozen for all eternity.

Actually if there is an award for team album of the year, then “Les amours parallèles” is the undisputed winner. Already armed with a honey-dripped and mesmerising voice that would be described as nailed-on Fille Fragile, Stéphanie surrounded herself amongst the crème of Québec’s song-writing and composing talent; Philippe B – winner of two Félix at this year’s ADISQ Gala; Jimmy Hunt – GAMIQ award winner and Polaris nominee; award winning poet Kim Doré alongside Émilie Laforest and Joseph Marchand of blog favourites, Forêt, who were also responsible for the album’s production.

From the opening number, the Philippe B composition, “L’oiseau mécanique”, with it’s poignant piano melody and Stéphanie’s voice softly floating above the clouds to the haunting resonance of the English horn on the closing “Nous revenons de loin”, this is an album of terrifying consistency.

The album feels very French – and while it’s not impossible to imagine this album being written and performed in (say) English – it resonates with “Frenchiness” and the echoes of Françoise Hardy, France Gall and Jane Birkin (whose “Pourquoi” has been lovingly reinterpreted here); yet for an album that has a distinctly retro-sixties feel (indeed, even the album artwork harks back to the period), there’s only one song here, “Un jour comme un autre”, that is actually from that era. Originally performed by Brigitte Bardot on her 1964 album “BB”, here the nuances of Stéphanie’s voice perfectly captures the feeling of resignation and despair.

Mention has to be made of the two stunning duets on the album – both written and composed by their respective co-vocalists. The haunting “De mon enfance” is graced by the angelic harmonies of Stéphanie and Philémon Cimon and the only English-language offering, Leif Vollebekk’s “Not a moment too soon”, an incredibly haunting song of sombre and imposing orchestral strings, gentle soothing piano and arresting vocals.

There are also some incredibly thoughtful touches that help bind the songs on this album – heavenly choirs flit in and out of the spotlight, the arrangements – be it strings, piano or acoustic guitar – all perfectly capture the particular mood of a song.

“Les amours parallèles” is a gorgeous concept album that revolves around the theme of love in all of its many guises. It is also nothing short of a masterpiece and deserved of consideration as album of the year 2014.

Best of the Best 2014 (part 3): Salomé Leclerc

I love the way she pronounces her own name (watch), Salomé Leclaaaarrr. I love the way her sweet singing voice cuts through the darkness and heaviness of her music, as a much needed torchlight in a pitch black forest. I love how she channels Joy Division, Timber Timbre and even Kraftwerk in her songs – I suppose this is what they all would make if they were stuck in an elevator with Salomé. I love 27 fois l’aurore, the sophomore album by the Canadian songstress. I even bought the vinyl version. As one friend, who’s also a record store owner, once said: these days, vinyl albums are works of art. 27 fois l’aurore is my most treasured possesion of this year.

Best of the Best 2014 (part 2)

What a good year for the filles! ”But you can only pick one”, Guuz godfather of Filles Sourires told us. So here it is, not random chosen of course, but taken from the outstanding album Lunes by this beautiful freckled girl from Canada, Chloé Lacasse. A track that completely fulfilled its promise after the auspicious intro, just as the whole album does: Renverser la Vapeur.

Chloé Lacasse – Renverser la Vapeur

Salomé Leclerc – 27 fois l’aurore

Today, Salomé Leclerc’s highly anticipated sophomore album was released in Canada (out in Europe on Oct 13th). Here’s my ‘premature evaluation’, and on the fly review:
1. Arlon. We know this fierce track (‘t was a single), heavy on the reverb, heavy on the bass. It sounds like it was recorded with Salomé in the cellar, and the band in the studio. Haunting. See the video.
2. En dedans. Starts with a wailing Salomé, her vocals drenched in echo again, and that now signature sound of strumming acoustic guitar and the groove on the electric guitar, very upfront in the mix. Break down (or a coda) half way with crashing electronic drums and brass sounds.
3. L’icône du naufrage. Slow, sparse electronic beat, early-spy-fi synth sounds. Tempo picks up half way, with a twanging guitar. Cool.
4. Un bout de fil. Piano-ballad with storm sounds in the back. Heavy dub-fx near the end. Salomé sounding very fragile
5. Le bon moment. More uptempo, rocking. Sounds a bit like a Joy Division song (Isolation), but with brass, cowbell and a distorted piano, and a piercing organ. Best song on the album so far. See a sparse live-version:

6. Vers le sud.. This song backed Arlon, it still sounds like Timber Timbre doing a Kraftwerk-cover, with Salomé on lead vocals. We already knew, but this is a great song. See a live video here.
7. Les chemins de l’ombre. Slow, brooding song with heavy piano accents, Fender Rhodes piano and a few bits and electronic pieces. Songs seems to build up to a crescendo, but it doesn’t.
8. It morphs into this song Attendre la fin, that has an eastern vibe thanks to the electronic vibraphone sounds, then breaks into an indie-midtempo rocker with added percussion. Drums get heavier near the end. Few lyrics, long chorusses. Not my favourite track.
9. Et si cette fois était la bonne. Starts with distorted piano and Salomé’s husky voice drenched in reverb. String-y sounds (probably an organ) add to the mysterious atmosphere. Then a full on brass finale comes in.
10. Devant les canons. Those Joy Division-ized drums again, heavy piano and reverb on the guitar. By now, it almost sounds like Salomé’s ran out of ideas, but this signature sound still grabs me. Combined with her lovely voice. The brass helps too. This builds and builds. Longest track on the album (5m46s). Gets better everytime your hear it.
11. J’espère aussi que tu y seras. Breakbeats, wailing siren-sounds, Salomé’s fading away, like a ghost in the wind.

All ‘n all a fascinating follow-up to a strong debut, this album’s made for the fall, a soundtrack to stormy clouds, falling leaves and walking with your collar up.

Read Canadian reviews (in French) here, here, here

Salomé Leclerc – Le bon moment
For the compilation ‘Trente’, marking the 30th anniversary of the Canadian record label Audiogram, Salomé recorded a special version of ‘Arlon’:
Salomé Leclerc – Arlon

Catherine Leduc

2014-04-16-12-25-19-ARTS - Rencontre avecOriginally the female half of Canadian folk-pop duo Tricot Machine, “Rookie” is the debut solo album from Catherine Leduc, and despite the fact that Matthieu Beaumont – long-time partner and the other half of the Tricot Machine – helped produce, mix and play on a number of the keyboards, the sound is far removed from the frothy, bouncy – cute – piano-based pop that the duo were renowned. In it’s place is an incredibly dreamy, melancholic, atmospheric and ye, more mature, sound. Similar to Fanny Bloom (the voice behind La Patère Rose) and her own stunning 2012 solo “Apprentie Guerrière, “Rookie” sees Catherine Leduc blossom and deliver as assured an album as is likely to be released this year.

“Rookie” may seem a strange title for an album from an artist who in one guise or another has been performing and recording for over a decade, but as Catherine has revealed in interviews in the French-Canadian press, this album really is about starting out afresh and (re)defining herself, musically.

The haunting introduction to “Les Vieu hiboux” – with polysynth owls swooping through the midnight forest – sets the melancholic theme that is developed through the ten peerless songs featured here, all aided by the added tinge of fragility that Catherine’s vocals deliver. This feeling of melancholy is further driven home on the sublime “Vendredi Saint.” It’s an absolutely beautiful song – the construction – building from a solo acoustic guitar accompanying incredibly resonant lyrics that would surely melt the iciest of hearts – is as powerful as it is simply executed.

“Pee-Wee BB” sees Catherine explore through junior (ice) hockey, themes of inferiority and overcoming adversity – themes which again are woven through the album; while “Polatouche” adds glockenspiel with overdubbed vocals and the most angelic of choruses to a perfectly paced song.

It’s hard to pick out a stand-out track on an album of such high quality – the absence of a review of all the album’ songs is primarily one of brevity – but “Il faut se lever le matin”, with deep plucked bass chord, and the album’s closing number “Ouvre ton coeur!” with it’s soaring – imploring – chorus and uptempo hook are the songs that I keep returning to… And the ones that makes me yearn for more…

“Rookie” is one of this year’s outstanding albums – irrespective of language. Should further recommendation be required, it has, in my humble opinion, the same wow (as in “Wow! WTF was that?”) factor as Forêt’s astonishing debut from last year.

This album is year-list material…