Music

Coeur de Pirate: Blonde

Riding 1960s-era throwback arrangements for all they’re worth, Blonde feels just right in an era of Adele, Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Sharon Jones.


Coeur de Pirate

Blonde

Label: Grosse Boite
US Release Date: 2011-11-08
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

Twenty-two-year-old Béatrice Martin, a Quebecoise singer-songwriter with an ear for contagious pop melody and a voice to match, returns with a sophomore record that radiates with jubilance and youthful verve. Her simply wonderful debut record of 2008 had hinted at what she could do, though it was mostly made up of spare piano-based tunes showcasing her breathy vocals and minimalist song construction. Despite its smallness, that album haunted me for months, and few Sunday mornings went by without someone in my house putting it on.

Perhaps this is why on the first spin through Blonde I was disappointed at how big it felt. I missed the sweet atmospherics of the first record, those classically-influenced piano numbers that first turned me on to her sound. But, by about halfway through my second spin, it had become obvious that Coeur de Pirate (which means Pirate Heart in English) had emerged as a true chanteuse of the old school, capable of crafting and executing a complete and unavoidable pop gem. Riding 1960s-era throwback arrangements for all they’re worth, Blonde is a record that is both comfortingly predictable and excitingly retro, a highly successful apeing of a bygone sound that feels just right in an era of Adele, Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Sharon Jones.

En francais, “blonde” is slang for girlfriend, and in many ways the titular concept provides the unifying theme of the record. Exploring the dynamics of love affairs from a range of angles – Martin recently ended a relationship with the frontman for Canadian popsters Bedouin Soundclash, and as a result their new band Armistice was shelved too – the 12 songs here explore courtship, romance, stagnancy and eventually breakup, but rarely stray into predictability or some kind of mawkish song-cycle with a “lesson-learned” or “you’ll get ‘em next time, kid”-type conclusion. Indeed, the record actually ends with a track called “La Petite Mort” (which translates as “the little death”), a timeworn metaphor for an orgasm. An ending, then, but also a beginning.

This is a mature and thoughtful collection of songs exploring the calamity that is love in appropriately messy and contradictory ways. Above all else, it is the music that will keep us coming back (especially those of us for whom French is an unknown language). Throughout the brief 32-minute run, Martin’s childlike energy guides the performances, and yet runs in direct contrast to her mature lyrics and songcraft. Blonde is, overall, a very fun, very amusing record. It has a jumping-around-singing-into-your-hairbrush kind of girlish abandon to it that is utterly compelling.

Yet, for all of this effervescence, a superior or more tightly constructed series of pop tracks hasn’t appeared this year, for my money. Though there is certainly an innovation gap here -- these songs all feel like they might’ve been written 40 years ago by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (or something) and then rediscovered in a drawer somewhere -- the dated quality of the material is given fresh life through some ingenious production from Ms. Pirate Heart herself in collaboration with the great Howard Bilerman (Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, the Dears).

9

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.