Laurence Nerbonne

20150614 Laurence Nerbonne ArtworkThe face and voice should be familiar. Laurence Nerbonne – violinist and vocalist with Montréal’s much-missed alt-rockers Hôtel Morphée – is back, this time flying solo artist and with a sound that is not only totally uncompromising cent pour cent up-tempo electro-pop, but is arguably this summer’s pop anthem.

“Rêves d’été”, with its layered synths and beats combine with Laurence’s rasping and disarmingly seductive vocals to create a ridiculous addictive sound that – trust me – burrows deep into your consciousness and which you’ll find yourself humming along to at every opportunity.

With long-time Hôtel Morphée collaborator Philippe Brault at the controls, Laurence has written composed the most joyous celebration to the healing powers of long summer days and hot summer nights…

Hôtel Morphée

Reve americain
The phrase “year-list material” tends to get bandied around a bit (guilty as charged – here’s Exhibit A and Exhibit B), but I make no apologies for suggesting that Montréal-based Hôtel Morphée’s sophomore album “Rêve américain” is a more than worthy addition to the fold.

Whereas the band’s 2013 debut “Des Histoires des Fantômes” was all dark, brooding and Gothic tinged, “Reve américain” has a more pronounce alt-rock edge. Although the menacing undercurrent isn’t far from the surface and there’s the trademark liberal application of orchestral strings, the sound is altogether a more urgent, distorted, guitar-fuelled affair.

The direction the album takes was apparent from the thumping up-tempo “Dernier jour” – the more pronounced rock sound overlaid with violins and Laurence Newbornne’s rasping vocals (which appear to have far more range and expression than on “Des Histoires des Fantômes”) This is further confirmed by the album’s opening track, “Reve américain” – sombre keyboards buried beneath distorted, pounding bass – and some cleverly effects with Auto-Tune on Laurence’s voice as she ever so matter-of-factly addresses dreaming “…that one was killed and that one was missing…”

While the musical direction of the album is a new departure, the band maintain the illusion of expertly wrapping disconcerting lyrics with punchy rhythms – “Psycholove” – a love song for psychopaths, being a case in-point. Indeed the album explores the realities and myths of the American dream, walking as it does the tightrope between reverie and nightmares, exploring themes of love (“Soigne-moi”), sex (“Petite mort”) and violence (“Des milliers de gens”).

All eleven songs here are frighteningly consistent in quality; the reflective “Je reviendrai” is totally structured around Laurence’s auto-tuned and reverbed – almost tremolo vocals; “Tucson” paints a picture as bleak as the city under a burning Arizona sun…

I’ve previously commented that for all the great pop, country and folk albums that the French-Canadian Provinces have produced, the French music scene on this side of the pond desperately needs bands capable of delivering albums that generates the “frisson” that alternative and indie-rock provides.

With “Reve américain”, Hôtel Morphée have delivered this album…


Fear of Men

Brit-duo Fear of Men (Jessica and Daniel) made a French-language version of one of the highlights on their latest album, Loom. Fear of Men is up there with Camera Obscura, Young Marble Giants and Marine Girls. Or, more recent, Hotel Morphée and Forêt. (Merci Joris)

Hôtel Morphée

2014xxxx Hotel MorpheeOne of this blog’s favourite brooding, Gothic bands returns this autumn with a brand new album and a new sound. 

Montréal-based Hôtel Morphée release the long-awaited follow-up to last year’s “Des histoires de fantômes”, with the September release of “Rêve américain.”

While still dark and brooding, the new album promises a more openly poppy sound. The band have just released a thumping single from the album, “Dernier jour” that hints at the disjoint between dreams and the sobering light of reality and as as to be expected from the band, is deliciously subversive.  There’s that trademarked and liberal use of the syncopated rhythms of orchestral strings, but this time around they’re married to a distinctive rockier beat and Laurence Nerbonne’s vocals take on a distinctive rasping (and at times sultry) edge, especially with the subtle reverb added to the chorus…

“Dernier jour” serves as a tantalising tease for an album that is going to be eagerly awaited.


Laurence Nerbonne
Laurence Nerbonne
Laurence Nerbonne