Highlights: The Wrong Class, Under Skies Of Fire, Jojo, Humble Hearts
Joan is one of those immaculate pop records only France can produce. It’s indie as composed by a refined classicist: delicate melodies, tasteful guitar tones, fear of an overstatement. Sound-wise, the closest analogy I can think of would be another contemporary French band, 1973 (who released one of my favourite 2010 albums, Bye Bye Cellphone ).
Joan is made up of 11 perfect dreamy pop compositions that on first listen might come off too self-consciously stylish and pretty to contain a truly substantial hook. But the hooks are there, and given a little time they will inevitably start seeping through the album’s impeccable production. It’s all drenched in the loveliest indie guitar sound imaginable: lush, jangly, slightly drone-like. But it’s the dazzling vocal melodies (and vocal harmonies) that do it for me. The lead singer (two side closers aside, the thing is sung in English) sounds a little like Nico, only his vocal tone is warmer, more heartfelt. It matches the gorgeous, Velvet Underground-inspired (think their third album) background just fine. And while I wouldn’t call any these tunes unforgettable, there’s no denying the sheer aural pleasure these melodies provide.
Joan is a painstakingly crafted creation, and I believe there should be more indie music of this brainy, exquisite kind. Maison Neuve gives you what might be called an understated catharsis. I would cautiously wish the songs were a little edgier, but on second thoughts, well, that might be akin to telling an abstract sculptor to be a little more down-to-earth.