Tonight at session, my friend Ellen (sutures1 on LJ) asked me if I’d give her some recommendations about all of the various Quebec bands I’ve been listening to! Since I’m always happy to share fangirly love, and since I’m also newly of the conviction that it’s good for an Anglophone’s mental health to discover awesome bands in a language she does not speak and to therefore be inspired to learn that language, I’m going to oblige.
Which means, of course, that I must first and foremost cover Le Vent du Nord.
It has been a hard, protracted battle between these guys, La Volée d’Castors, and Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer for the position of My Favorite Quebecois Band. However, right now Le Vent is winning for a few important reasons!
One, they have Simon Beaudry! As y’all have seen me gush on previous posts, I’ve got a huge crush on this boy. He plays him a lovely bouzouki and guitar, and sings beautifully as well. He’s the secondary singer of Le Vent, but what songs he does sing lead on are among my favorites. Like, say, “Lanlaire”!
(And besides, Chibi!Simon Beaudry is just the most adorable little guitar player ever. Somebody drew him an awesome Facebook avatar!)
Two, Le Vent’s lead singer, Nicolas Boulerice, plays the hurdy gurdy–and Unusual Instruments FOR THE WIN. His voice has a very distinctive timbre to it, and he’s got a great dynamic range in his style of performance; of the tracks he sings lead on, he goes from lively crowd-stompers to haunting ballads and back again.
Three, as I’ve also gushed in a previous post, Olivier Demers was kind enough to answer an email I sent him with a question about one of their songs, and that right there is worth massive amounts of Awesome. More importantly, though, he is Le Vent’s podorythmie guy AND fiddler, and the various videos I’ve seen of him doing both at the same time are mighty impressive. Also, he apparently gets to do all the charming intros to various songs explaining them to English-speaking audiences. :D
Four, since I’ve said nice things about the other three Le Vent guys, I should also mention bassist and squeezebox player Réjean Brunet, who as far as I can tell so far gets a bit overshadowed by the other guys–but hey, Internets, a good bass player is the backbone of any band, am I right? I particularly noted M. Brunet in a live vid I found of Le Vent doing an a cappella performance, wherein he got to take his turn singing lead on something; he’s got a very nice voice too, and it ought to get more of a chance to stand out.
Now, all this said, let’s talk albums. Most of Le Vent’s discography is available electronically on iTunes’ US site and on Amazon.com’s MP3 Downloads site; the only album of theirs NOT available in either place is the awesome Symphonique live album I just finally picked up. A quick check of the Canada, UK, and Australia iTunes stores confirms for me that the same set of Le Vent albums are available there as well. So for most of you likely to be reading this post, you should find them reasonably well available.
If you want to avoid both iTunes and Amazon, Le Vent’s own site links off to their Borealis Records page, where you can apparently also order the same albums that are available electronically. Downloads appear to be available but if you explore this route, be on the lookout for downloads possibly being Canada-only. Likewise if you order Le Vent albums from Archambault.ca, the site of a big chain store in Quebec. Note on that latter link: if you order physical CDs from them, shipping charges for a single CD may be higher than the actual CD price, so you may want to consider ordering more than one CD at once.
Now, though, if you just want to get one Le Vent album, which one to get? It’s important to note that Le Vent’s current membership configuration settled into place only as of their previous studio album, Dans les airs. So if you want an album that most accurately reflects their current sound, you should get either Dans les airs or La Part du Feu. I’d be hard pressed to choose between the two. Both have several tracks I’ve been repeatedly playing.
Le Vent’s first live album, Mesdames et messieurs, is decent–and noteworthy for having guest vocals done by Bernard Simard, a previous member of the band, who did a lot of lead vocals on their first album Maudite moisson!. However, if you want to go with live Le Vent, find the Symphonique album if you can! Since it’s not available electronically, you’ll probably have to order it if you’re not lucky enough to live near a store likely to have it in stock. It’s available here and here. And for the sake of thoroughness, please to note my full review post for that album–I very much enjoy this album and have been playing through several of the tracks repeatedly.
And now, a handful of my favorite Le Vent songs:
- “Écris-moi”, on La Part du Feu. Sung by M. Beaudry, a lovely little song in 6/8. Both French lyrics and the English translation are available here.
- “Lanlaire”, also on La Part du Feu. Another Simon song, which has an excellent performance on the Symphonique album as well, and which has figured prominently in my Le Vent vid watching! Note also that this is the song with the chorus I discovered is a bit less work safe than you might expect, if you translate it properly. ;>
- “Cré mardi”, on Les amants du St-Laurent. This is hands down Le Vent’s best crowd-stomper, belted out with vigor by M. Boulerice, and with an awesome extended turlutte as the entire second half of the song. Great fiddle and footwork here by M. Demers as well. This one appears on both of the Le Vent live albums and is the closer on the Symphonique one.
- “Rosette”, on Dans les airs. This was the first of Le Vent’s songs to get my attention, and was the first to sell me on the strength of M. Boulerice’s voice and on the smoothness of all four guys’ combined harmony.
- “Le vieux cheval”, on Dans les airs. My fellow Great Big Sea fans will know what I mean when I say that this song is kind of Le Vent’s “General Taylor”. It’s a shanty, and the harmony on the choruses (as of the second verse) is seriously swoonable. I’m pretty sure that’s M. Brunet hitting those rumbly bass notes on the bottom of the chorus, too, if we want to talk other reasons to fangirl over the bass player. ;)
Last but oh my definitely not least, my entire YouTube Le Vent playlist is right over here! I’ve dropped notes on a lot of these calling out why I like them. The “Cré mardi” vid in the radio studio is particularly awesome, as are the casual videos where the band is playing in the middle of a relaxed bunch of festival-goers.
ETA: I have discovered, O Internets, that the aforementioned chibi!Simon pic was in fact the work of Mr. Kevin Bolk! It was commissioned by fellow Le Vent fan Susan Moseley, whose acquaintance I have made on Facebook, and who had him do all four members of the group. Mr. Bolk, it is vital for me to note, is also the artist who did the Star Trek parody webcomic Ensign Sue Must Die!, about which I have previously squeed on this blog. Y’all go visit Mr. Bolk’s site and say nice things about his work, s’il vous plait!