I’m a lyrics guy. I hunt for narratives, playful use of language to convey emotion and the uncanny ability to add (or remove) a single syllable to make a couplet, verse and even song shine. Not to get all Almost Famous guy, but it’s the words that make me love music, not the melody that carries them along.
So admittedly, when I listen to Marie-Pierre Arthur’s lovely new record, Aux alentours, I know the connection I crave is wasted on what’s left behind from my Grade 12 honors French class. I know she sings with emotion on songs like the piano driven “All Right”, but the subtleties float by and all I’m left with is the triumphant chorus.
Oddly enough, I’m okay with that. Much like the heft of Sigur Ros, Aux alentours leaves bruises and a memories despite almost everything being lost in translation. The record is visceral; the songs can explode out of the speakers or float around the room like beautiful, twisting plumes of smoke. Arthur’s voice is a fantastic mix of power and sensuality and even if I only pick up every third word, I feel what she is singing and wish I could sing along.
Marie-Pierre may possess a voice that can stop you mid-sentence, but it’s important to point out the arrangements are tailored to highlight her magnificent instrument. Her songs are soulful, but it’s how she and her backing band fuse delicate and interesting textures into the open space for support. She offers cold sadness alongside playfulness through analog synths, piano, percussion and guitar, but every note is presented with a clarity all too often ignored in today’s lo-fi obsessed world.
Take the time to enjoy this little gem. If you love strong writing, George Harrison and well thought out sounds, Aux alentours might just be your Summer crush.