The Hang of Music: Flowers
Aujourd’hui, je suis ecrire au sujet de Mademoiselle Émilie Simon, une artiste française qui achète des fleures pour sa petit chou-fleure. Quelle fou!
Aussi, je tiens à dire à quelqu’un qui parle francais correctement: je suis vraiment désolé. Apres ceci, je vais speak in english.
Now, back in my mother tongue, I shall say this. Emilie Simon has an accent on the beginning of her name. I wish that there was an easier mechanism for putting one there, rather than just going to Word and copypasting an “e” with an acute accent on it. But there isn’t, and I can’t be bothered to spend all of my time doing that whenever I want to say Emilie Simon. So I’m going to do it here, once, then curse english keyboards for being so culturally monolithic: then I shall move on with my life, and spell it Emilie. It is written Émilie Simon: Fuck you, keyboards! There. And no more.
Now that’s off my chest, lets actually talk music.
Actually, no, lets talk french. Or, at least, lets talk about her french lyrics. I like listening to albums in other languages; it gives me a break from trying to understand what the singer is going on about.* But the fun of this album that I found is that, every now and then, my brain will click back to my old french lessons, and I’ll understand a line, and then it’ll disappear into the ether, leaving me to try to understand the whole song with reference to that one line, like a splinter in my mind.
A recurring pattern in her songs is her use of builds. Blue Light, Dernier Lit and the whole intro track, Desert, all count. She seems to be a fan of arranging her songs so that they sound like they’re getting louder at like they’re going somewhere. And that sounds a lot harsher than I meant it to sound, but it is what I mean, as another of the features of her work that I’ve noticed is that she’s very, very minimalist.
Her songs tend to consist mainly of her singing, some keyboard and some drums. When I read on her wiki that she was a french electronic artist, I thought of Daft Punk and Justice, and as such I was expecting a lot of more in the way of instrumentation. But she doesn’t really use much. (I suppose I could have thought of AIR, though as well, who follow a similar pattern.) It’s kind of endearing; making her lyrics and tunes sound much sweeter.
Very sweet and quiet, and I have absolutely no idea whether “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, a cover of the Stooges, is going to fit with that. I mean, let’s face it, with a title like that, amongst songs with titles in french, talking about rain and flowers, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” does kind of stand out.
And, almost predictably, it doesn’t. It’s mostly in English, for one, and a lot bigger and faster than the others. It actually sounds a bit more like Metric than the other tracks.** Which don’t sound like Metric at all, really, to be quite frank. And none of it sounds like the Stooges, so she’s achieved the aim of any skilled musician covering a song: still managing to be original.
Although, that said, she does then toe the water with falling into Kate Bush and Kirsty MacColl territory. Specifically, Flowers reminds me of “England 2 Columbia 0”. Except more gender-bending, and less angry.
See what I mean. It’s that guitar. It sounds a bit South American, like the soundtrack to western. One that’s nicked a few lyrics from a Bond song at that.
Let me not beat around the bush. This is a good album. Lovely, in fact, is probably the word I would use. This is a lovely album. It’s rather simplistic, in many ways, but I get the feeling that with a few more listens it will open itself up even more. And even on first listen it has a few odd little quirks, and wonderful tunes, so it’s already off to a flying start.
* Which is usually nothing, because most people waste their lyrics with what simply sounds good rather than actually trying to say something to people. Pet peeves of mine; top of the list.
** This is for you, Tom. Our cultural exchange is now complete.