Julie Blanche

JulieBlanceArtMontréal-based Julie Blanche featured on these very pages last year after she finished runner-up at that year’s Les Francouvertes (the annual French-Canadian music festival which acts as a showcase for emerging francophone artists). Enthusing over her auto-financed EP the overriding thought was that here was not so much a showcase but more of a teaser from an artist that we hoped would grace this blog again…

And now armed with her eponymously-titled debut album it’s probably safe to say that Julie has emerged with an album that should comfortably find a place in any end of year retrospective…

This album comprises ten haunting and melancholy bitter-sweet vignettes, that feel intensely personal and semi-biographical. Every song on this album tells a story, each one an episode imbued with a different emotion and each perfectly framed by the sparseness of Julie’s voice and beautifully counterpoised by the richness of the accompanying melody. Indeed, it’s this richness – that lends an underlying warmth to proceedings – which ensures the album never becoming over-sentimental or maudlin.

To be honest, I’m absolutely blown away by this album, thanks in no small part to the combination of the masterful compositions of Antoine Corriveau (Julie’s long-time collaborator and partner), producer Mathieu Charbonneau. and Julie’s crystalline voice that leaves you hanging on her every word. Every song on this album is truly memorable; “Deux visages”, the opening track and a tale of those conflicting passions, love and hate; “Le manège” and a lover scorned. There’s an underlining menace rippling not far below the surface of “Au bout de la nuit” and “Comme un décor”.

But lest you think the album is hard work, these songs are balanced by the wistful “Le fleuve au complet”, the ethereal “Presque” and the album’s closing number, “La vie facile”, an uplifting reminiscence of a life lived to the full.

This is truly an exceptional œuvre and although I’m pretty certain that I haven’t even began to convey how good an album this is, I’m immediately drawn to comparisons – and I’m not alone here – with fellow Québecoise Salomé Leclerc. There’s the same assured art of story-telling and the same range of emotions conveyed in the voice. Indeed in Francophone Canada the album has received rave reviews and is already being given serious consideration as an album of the year candidate…

Rosie Valland

20150121 Rosie Valland PortraitAnd here’s yet another talented singer-songwriter from Québec…

Rosie Valland’s 2014 eponymous debut EP was a melancholic and atmospheric collection of autobiographical songs that created a vista of monochromatic landscapes. With the promise of an album to be released later this year, she’s back with an intriguing teaser in the shape of her new single, “Rebound.”

Similar to the themes of the earlier EP, “Rebound” again has an autobiographical and melancholy feel; but whereas Rosie’s earlier songs were painted with a monotone palette, here there feels as if a hint of colour and depth has been applied to the canvas – there are deft touches of brass and a hint of fragility to Rosie’s voice that evokes fellow Québécoise Salomé Leclerc.

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.

Salomé, Ariane, Isabelle

Canadian label Audiogram decided to celebrate it’s 30th birthday by asking it’s roster to re-record their bestest song in an intimate setting. The result, a double album, is accompanied by black and white videos. We cherry picked our faves:

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

Pully-Québec – Catherine Major & Salomé Leclerc

Mark Sullivan reports on the Swiss song festival.

Every two years the Swiss town of Pully, a suburb of Lausanne on the shore of Lake Geneva, holds a song festival of francophone music from North America.
It is the initiative of a local politician, Rico Perriard, who began it in 1996. It now includes other villages on the famous wine-growing slopes of the Lavaux.

Big names draw the audience – in 2014, Isabelle Boulay and Lynda Lemay. The income they bring enables the organisers to fly over other singers, who do not attract crowds but are at the artistic summit of Quebec music. This year, Catherine Major and Salomé Leclerc flew from Canada, for their only appearance in Europe this year. (Les Soeurs Boulay also featured, but unfortunately Ingrid St-Pierre cancelled at a late stage due to illness.)

Both Catherine and Salomé appeared solo.
Catherine Major appeared on 11 June in a large sports hall, on a high stage more suited for a rock or country-folk band. She began with some beautiful piano-playing, and then a number of her well-known songs including ‘Saturne sans anneaux’, ‘Valser en mi bémol’ and ‘Amadeus’. She sang ‘La voix humaine’ standing on the edge of the stage, a-capella, and finished with ‘Le piano ivre’.
The conditions were not right for a fine performance. A singer at the piano on a high stage is not easy to see well, and the lighting was disappointing. The least good feature was that the speakers for her voice were to the sides, so that piano and voice came from different directions. One hopes that next time she will be able to appear in the main Pully theatre, the Thèâtre Octagone, in a well so that the audience looks down on her, and play with good acoustics. Nevertheless, it was good to see Catherine live.
See her in full flow with a band and string accompaniment at Festivoix, Trois-Rivières in July 2012 here with ‘Saturne sans Anneaux’.

Salomé Leclerc played on 13 June in a tiny theatre, the Thèâtre de la Voirie, with just 60 places, and the audience was very close to her indeed. My photos understate how stunning she is. Tall and slim, at 27 she is the perfect representative of the ‘folk alternative’ side of Quebec music. With her long training in percussion, she can create a fine sound solo from just a guitar – acoustic or electric – and a set of drums. There cannot be anyone else who can do so much by herself in live performance.

With just an hour, she offered four tracks from her debut album – ‘Partir ensemble’,
‘Ne reviens pas’, ‘Love, naive, love’ and the rarely-heard ‘Volcan’. From her forthcoming second album she gave us ‘Arlon’ and ‘Vers le Sud’ and two new as yet unavailable tracks. She was regretful that there was not time in her set to sing some of her best-known tracks – ‘Tourne encore’, ‘Sous les arbres’, ‘Caméléon’. Worth hearing was ‘Garde-moi collée’, most memorably sung live in 2012 on TV5 Monde.

It was a surprise talking to Salomé afterwards, as when she speaks English she sounds European – Swiss even – and not Canadian. Her whole style – appearance and performance – seems suited for this side of the Atlantic. So we must hope that she will be back soon.

The good news for Filles Sourires is that Salomé told me ‘I know Filles Sourires’ and that she has read the May 2014 post about her! Once her second album ‘ 27 fois l’aurore’ is out this September, will Salomé return to Europe ? If she reads this post, I hope she decides on another visit, with her band.

Salomé Leclerc

75070_582195428473580_2085063339_nCan’t you stop raving about the filles from Québec?! You might ask yourself. Well, no. They keep surprising and pleasuring us with great tracks. So why quit? Take sultry Salomé Leclerc. We (well, Maks did, credit’s due) spotted her back in 2010. We raved about her debut: “The guitar-driven songs are the perfect field for her voice to play on and simultaneously kidnap the listeners mind to drop it somewhere under the trees.” Somehow we missed her Le vent nous portera cover. We loved her bass-heavy, ‘dark tranquility’ chansons. And now she’s announced a new album in September, and just released a vinyl single (and mp3s) with two new songs. Arlon, a song that might be about the village (but probably isn’t), is the winner. Again, it’s bass-heavy, drenched in echo, there’s a soulful tambourine and there’s electronica. It’s cold wave on a stove. It’s like making tender love on a concrete floor in an abandoned industrial complex.

Salomé Leclerc – Arlon (link works now)

Mark adds:

Salomé Leclerc is a great stage performer. Here are her best live performances in 2013 at Festivoix, Trois-Rivières (July) and Parc Marcel-Léger, Montreal (August).

At Festivoix here are ‘Partir ensemble’

and click HERE for Caméleon and HERE for ‘Garde-moi collée’

See how she manages with a supporting band of just two, who play multiple intruments. A short interview with Salomé is here

In memory of the famous (unrelated) Québec writer and singer Félix Leclerc (1914-1988) she sang his nostalgic ‘La Gaspésie’.

Salomé is appearing at the Festival Pully-Québec in Switzerland in June along with some other FS favourites – notably Ingrid St-Pierre, Les Soeurs Boulay and Catherine Major. The festival is held in Pully, a suburb of Lausanne, every two years. This may be the only opportunity to see these artistes in Europe in 2014. If you are in Suisse Romande next month, don’t miss it.

Salomé Leclerc duets with Joshua Hyslop

Lovely Salomé adds French vocals to a song by Vancouver neo-folkster Joshua Hyslop. On his album, one Anna Scouten is Joshua’s English duet partner. Switching between English and French duet partners is common practice for Canadian artists (I guess it has something to do with gaining radioplay this way), for instance, Simple Plan duetted with Natasha Bedingfield and Marie-Mai. It’s that stupid Jetlag song, by the way, so click at your own risk.

Salomé Leclerc’s debut: worth the wait

Salomé Leclerc - Sous Les ArbresIt took Salomé Leclerc almost four years to release her debut ‘Sous Les Arbres’. These years of writing, fine-tuning, re-arranging and rehearsing resulted in a very intimate, subtle and layered album that reveals its treasures slowly but surely. Together with Emily Loizeau (they met each other for the first time at ‘Les Rencontres d’Astaffort’) she managed to record a rudimentary album with lots of folk-influences that nonetheless doesn’t get on the nerves. A tour de force in itself, but she succeeded. The darkhaired beauty from Québec is blessed with a very versatile voice that is hoarse when needed (Dans la prairie), bright and strong (Partir Ensemble) and ominous and exciting (Volcan). The guitar-driven songs are the perfect field for her voice to play on and simultaneously kidnap the listeners mind to drop it somewhere under the trees.
Salomé Leclerc made an outstanding debut (but I still wonder why a stunningly beautiful song as ‘Est-il Cassé ?’ – see video below – isn’t on it).
Guuzbourg was right, yearlist-material people.

Salomé Leclerc – Tourne encore

Salomé Leclerc – Est-il Cassé ? (live at ‘Les Rencontres d’Astaffort’)