French electro-acoustic artist Laurent Girard (Melodium) has warned his fans: “This is a folk-pop album. With real songs!” This does not make it any less charming. Apart from the singing on the even-numbered tracks, Girard is a leopard who can’t change his spots. The Island still sounds like Melodium, right from the start: the playful plunking, flute notes and strummed guitar of “Lacrymae”. And this works just fine. When the drums and clapping enter, we’re hooked; and a slight turn to the offbeat in the closing minutes simply tells us that the album won’t be bland.
Girard possesses an indie voice: hushed, restrained, content to stay within his range. The more remarkable story is that he is able to move so easily into the pop format while retaining the flavor that is decidedly his. In short, this is much better folk-pop than what one might normally encounter on the radio, because the music behind it is creative and varied. The highest hopes one might have for The Island‘s success is that it serves as a bridge album, leading pop fans to the more adventurous end of the spectrum while reminding the adventurous that there is still such a thing as an appealing folk-pop tune.
In the best of the instrumental tracks, the piano takes on the tone of a music box. Played in succession, these pieces sound like a natural continuation of the sounds found on Coloribus (though Coloribus was in fact recorded first). The addition of horns on “In Deserto” makes it stand above the rest. The most successful vocal piece is “The Outside”, due to the clash between the upbeat music and mysteriously downbeat lyrics: “She’s gonna spread a virus in an empty field and eradicate the human race just to be alone”. A secondary “na-na-na” chorus just makes it all the weirder.
We wouldn’t want Girard to abandon his instrumental career, so we’re glad he’s hedged his bets here. The Island may not be the album that Melodium fans were expecting, but it should still be one that they like, and perhaps he’ll make some new fans in the process as well. (Richard Allen)
Release Date: March 6
The above video for “La Fin de Tout” (directed by Eric Georgeault and tagged on Vimeo as “Swing”) is a new video for an older Melodium song, but it provides a perfect summary of the artist’s appeal.