PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Emilie Simon: The Flower Book

Compiled from her first three albums, Emilie Simon's The Flower Book is an excellent introduction to the US marketplace.

Emilie Simon

The Flower Book

Label: Milan
US Release Date: 2006-11-07
UK Release Date: Available as import

Until the release of The Flower Book, the US had been surrounded by a force field set to repel all attempted invasions by French producer, vocalist, and electronic artist Emilie Simon. Despite releasing three very strong albums and winning awards in her homeland, the American headquarters for her label, Universal, has sat on their hands, perhaps unsure how to market Simon in America. Well, let's take a stab with this one: Emilie Simon is the French Björk!

Fortunately, that oversimplifies Emilie's music, but it'll suffice for luring in listeners who enjoy the kind of artfully askew electronic pop music that's best served chilly. Her 2003 self-titled debut was evocative enough of polar landscapes for the producers of the film La March de l'Empereur to seek out Simon and commission her to compose its soundtrack. English-speaking audiences know the work better as The March of the Penguins, a documentary about the life cycle of Antarctica's emperor penguins. You'll also have heard a completely different score for the film, because Simon's works were lifted out in favor of Alex Wurman's compositions, which were deemed better suited to American and British audiences (or maybe they just provided a nice background for Morgan Freeman's narration).

Stifled yet undaunted, Emilie Simon released her critically lauded third full-length, Végétal, in spring of 2006. It continued her streak of very fine albums comprised of concise and claustrophobic pop songs mixed with meditative diversions. Despite this strong run of releases and a growing worldwide fan base, it's taken the smallish Milan Records to finally get the music of Emilie Simon issued in America.

The Flower Book is a compilation of the best 15 tracks from Simon's three albums. Better to think of it as an introduction, though, rather than a greatest hits. Certainly, such labeling would be preemptive. Simon is on her way up, not out. As far as the U.S. is concerned, her career has only just begun. Focusing heavily on Simon's more pop-structured efforts, The Flower Book doesn't really attempt to explore the full range of her music. No instrumentals are present, and most cuts have a beat that, even if you can't always dance to it, will hold your mind glued to the music. In this sense, the disc actually does feel like a greatest hits package, devoid of filler. Now, I'd hesitate to term any of Simon's work "filler," but my main criticism of her albums has been their lack of focus. While listening to one of her previous CDs straight through, I've never been sure if I should be paying close attention or spacing out. The Flower Book, on the other hand, pulls the listener in right from the start and holds on until the very end.

Kicking off with La March's "Song of the Storm", the disc introduces us to Simon's Kate Bushy side. The song sweeps dark clouds across "The Big Sky" and sways to the heady feel of "Heads We're Dancing". Simon follows this nod to one obvious major influence with a cover of another that you'd never see coming: The Stooges. Yes, track two is that "I Wanna Be Your Dog", converted here to creepy gothic sleaze, as if Danielle Dax were fronting Depeche Mode. Your perspective may vary along with ideals of rock 'n' roll purity, but, in my book, this style morphing is both successful and sexy as hell. Simon's native tongue emerges on "Dame de Lotus", a chugging rhythm with an Asian string melody intermittently in bloom. Track four is "Desert", a melancholic ballad. Though sung in English, the music echoes the regret and the undeniably French motifs of Edith Piaf (albeit electronicized).

Although reviewed in order from the album's beginning, any sampling of tracks from The Flower Book will reveal an artist whose songs draw on a range of influences (is that Laurie Anderson who's fallen "In the Lake"?), but which are drawn tightly together by Simon's lovely purr and the certitude of her approach and vision. That's not to say that this sampler's continuity wasn't also premeditated; this CD wasn't thrown together. It begins with its most assertive cut and concludes with the lullaby-like "To the Dancers in the Rain". The song makes for a lovely and twinkling finale to The Flower Book, the excellent compilation and U.S. debut from Emilie Simon, who is far more than just the French Björk.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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