How much do the gods of all music love me this month? This much: they have given unto me the shining present of the brand new Le Vent du Nord album, Tromper le Temps! Now, mind you, its official release date on CD is the 25th–but it’s shown up early on the iTunes and Amazon MP3 stores, and I could not resist the musical shininess. I will, however, also be buying the CD. Because this album? So awesome I am buying it twice! Now that I have it, though, I can present for you a review! And in honor of Le Vent du Nord’s native language, I now present to you the first paragraph of this review of this album, en français1 2!
Vous savez déjà, mes amis d’Internet, que j’ai une grande admiration3 pour Le Vent du Nord, le premier groupe à contester Great Big Sea pour mes affections! Il n’est donc pas surprenant que j’aime ce nouvel album. J’aime son esprit. J’aime ses souliers4. J’aime son énergie, son harmonie, et les histoires qui m’attendent dans les paroles. J’aime cet album tellement je vais l’acheter à deux reprises, sur iTunes et sur CD! Et je vous exhorte tous à l’acheter aussi, parce qu’il est beau et impressionnant!
(Okay, that’s about as much French as I can coherently manage in one blog post.5 The Too Long; Didn’t Read Because I Don’t Understand French version: buy this album, because it is a thing of beauty and the boys of Le Vent du Nord are awesome. Tell them I sent you!)
Full review, including song-by-song reactions, behind the fold!
I need to get past the initial squee of ZOMG NEW ALBUM to issue a truly definitive verdict–but so far, this album comes across hard as a stronger, tighter work than either Dans les airs or La part du feu, the two previous albums with Le Vent’s current membership lineup. I’ve been reading some of the media reviews that the band’s been linking to, and in these, M. Boulerice is quoted as saying how their fans often tell them that their albums are good, but their shows are so much better. (AND, having now actually seen Le Vent du Nord perform, I can throw my vociferous agreement in on that.) Thus, they tried to capture some of their live performance energy in this album by all playing together in the studio.
And it works amazingly well! It makes me want to grab every instrument I own and start trying to play along, and it makes me want the physical copy of the album now now now maintenant6. Not only because this is the first Le Vent du Nord album I get to buy at its release, but also because I am desperate to see the lyrics so I can start learning what all the songs are about!7
Simon Beaudry gets three, count ’em, three songs to sing lead on, and that lets him beautifully work his voice. To my delight, Réjean Brunet also gets a lead song–I’d already decided that boy needs to sing more! “Le dragon de Chimay” sounds every bit as tight as I remembered from seeing this one performed at the show. Nicolas Boulerice is in excellent voice, particularly on “Le diable et le fermier”, which I’d previously seen on YouTube as a joint effort between Le Vent, Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, and Galant Tu Perds Ton Temp. And I begin to suspect that like unto Tony Stark, Olivier Demers must be powered by his very own personal arc reactor, the best explanation I can come up with for how he pulls off such vigorous fiddle playing and vigorous podorythmie at the same time8.
And now, let’s talk individual tracks!
Lettre à Durham: This one starts off deceptively slowly with the instrumental intro, then kicks into high gear as soon as Nico starts belting out the verses–at which point this album announces quite firmly that it is open for business. Good strong minor harmonies all over this song, the strong, sweet harmony that’s one of Le Vent du Nord’s trademarks, and Olivier’s fiddle keeps dropping neat shivery little strikes on the strings on the verses, too. I don’t have nearly enough French to follow these lyrics yet, but I’m really curious about what this song’s about. In the articles I’ve read, there are references to this one being tied in with the history of Quebec, so clearly I have some more reading up to do.
Le dragon de Chimay: Heard this one in Vancouver and it sounds every bit as awesome here as it did live! As mentioned, I am eager to get hold of the lyrics to this one so I can better learn the story–because as an author of fantasy novels, I am morally, ethically, and creatively obliged to be absolutely down with dragon transformation stories! Lovely fiddle and hurdy gurdy goodness here, too. I have just enough French at this point to catch tantalizing little bits, a few words I can recognize–but I don’t have enough words yet. OH, I need these words, just to see if they fit with the places my imagination goes when led by the song. The hurdy gurdy is definitely a great instrument to convey a feel of musical, draconic power, that’s for sure.
Toujours amants: Now we’re TALKING: Simon’s first lead song on the track, and here my fledgling French actually threw me the entire phrase “adieu, mon chere amant fidèle, apres de voir me le longtemps”. I don’t know if that’s right, mind you, but I’m rather tickled I got a fairly long string of possible coherent words right out of the gate with this one! As for the song itself, I also heard this one in Vancouver, where it was an excellent impetus for La Danse Verticale. The studio version is equally bouncy, with M. Beaudry grooving on the higher end of his range. Guitar and accordion and piano are the instruments of choice here, along of course with Olivier’s fiddle and feet, and it’s all delightful. This is my current favorite track on the album, and both the live version in Vancouver and this studio version provoke the same overall response from me, which is to say: Simon needs to stop destroying my knees.9
Le winnebago: This is one of the instrumentals the boys did in Vancouver, the one whose title I wasn’t sure about. Heavy on the fiddle and hurdy gurdy and mouth harp here, not too fast on the tempo at least on the first piece in the set; I think I hear some keyboards sneaking in here too as the second tune of the set kicks in. It’s a good tight set, though, with strong energy despite it not being quite as fast as the preceding tracks, and easily danceable10. The only weird note for me about this one was in fact the final note, since it ends on a bit of strange minor dissonance out of the hurdy gurdy, leaving me with a mental “quoi?”
Le souhait: Réjean’s lead song! This has a bit of a minor flavor to it, well suited to M. Brunet’s darker-timbred voice. As with some of the preceding tracks, I can comprehend a few tempting words here and there, not enough yet to decipher meaning, but enough that my brain’s trying to fill in the blanks anyway!11 And it ends on a bit of a strange unresolved chord, too, so again with the “quoi?” One other thing I really do like about this one, though: on the bridge, there’s some high sweet harmony on the response lines, which is particularly enticing on the grounds that now that I’ve got all of Le Vent’s albums, I’ve been able to learn the character of Nicolas’ and Simon’s and Réjean’s voices–but not Olivier’s! It’s very, very easy to forget sometimes, since he does such an amazing job with the fiddle and the feet, that he’s also singing backup. And on the harmony bits in this song, I’m hearing two higher voices that are clearly not Nicolas, so one of them has got to be Olivier, and man, I want to hear him sing lead on something now too. Even if it’s just a single verse in a bridge or something! But we can’t distract him from writing instrumentals too much, which leads into…
Manteau d’hiver: … this! Oh, I like this one! This is another instrumental, and Google Translate informs me that its title translates to ‘winter coat’. I can totally hear it, as the delicate piano strikes, guitar strums, and brushes on the fiddle strings, almost crystalline in sound, do a gorgeous job evoking a brisk winter day. I can almost feel snowflakes on my cheeks, just listening to it. When the feet come in, that’s the snowfall starting–and maybe you’re out there frolicking around in it, and throwing snowballs! And as this set winds in to a close, it’s time to head in again. There’s a fireplace waiting, and something hot to drink, and you can settle down to get warm while you watch the snow keep falling outside. In short: beautiful!
Adieu Marie: Simon’s second song! This one’s practically country in its overall style, and definitely the most laid back on the album. It’s not an unfamiliar style to me, since it’s a strong callback to Le sort des amoureux, the album that Simon did with his brother Éric–but on the other hand, it’s almost a bit too strong a callback, since I keep expecting Éric to come in on harmony!12
Le cœur de ma mère: Oh YES, now we’re back to another song I heard in Vancouver, and this is absolutely another one whose lyrics I’m eager to get hold of. I know the overall story of the song now–the story of the young woman who loves an evil woman who demands that he kill his mother and bring her heart to her, to be fed to her dog!–but I need to map the story to the actual words! Musically, there’s not as much speed here as with “Le dragon de Chimay”, but there is strength, and a haunting melody line, and a long turlutte at the end. And I do love my turluttes so very, very much, and Le Vent doesn’t do them often, and so for that alone I’m obliged to love this song!13
Vigneron: Back to Simon, and this is always a good thing, especially when he’s all up and down his range. No idea yet what this one’s about, but musically it’s fast, it’s nimble, and minor-flavored, and it’s going to get more attention from me once I get hold of the lyrics. Very nice little outro, powered as it is by Olivier’s flying feet!
Le diable et le fermier: This is the aforementioned song that was a previous collaboration with Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer and Galant Tu Perds Ton Temps. I’m still not used to this version, and I’m not sure yet if I like this one as much as I do the other, collaborative version. Le Vent in unaccompanied a cappella glory is shiver-inducing, don’t get me wrong–but I’m not sure if the steady, stompy rhythm that’s providing the only percussion here quite works for me. It’s just straight, fast stomping as opposed to more complex podorythmie, and so it sounds like marching to my ear, a bit too fast for the lyrics; it’s distracting me a bit as I listen. We close out with a dark statement out of the hurdy gurdy, though, and that is awesome.
Dans les cachots: Nicolas is in splendid voice on this one, I’ve got to say. Again, no idea yet what this one is about, but the melody’s sad, M. Boulerice is dipping down into his lower range, and it’s overall making me think of sorrowful things found at the bottom of shot glasses in smoky bars. Or brooding staring out of windows, on gray winter days. That this song can be so evocative to me even when I don’t even know most of the language yet is, I think, a shining example of why Le Vent has charged its way into my musical affections.
La soirée du hockey: YAY! Another piece we heard in Vancouver, and an excellent set from M. Demers! My only problem with this recording of it is that it pulls a deeply frustrating fade-out–frustrating because of Olivier’s entire intro of this song during the concert, describing how the three-tune set is supposed to represent the three periods of a hockey game. But if the song fades out, that means we don’t get the end of the game! Augh! Frustrating on both a musical AND a metaphorical level! It doesn’t console me much either since in concert, this thing ended with delightful stadium-style fiddle riffs, and now the recording just doesn’t sound complete to me without them!14 That said? It tickles me deeply that Olivier wrote a set about hockey. Like you do, apparently, if you’re a fiddle player in Canada, Anglophone OR Francophone. :D15
Souffle d’ange: Last but not least, we get a final instrumental, this one slow and sweet and simple, enough that in my capacity of ‘somewhat rusty flute player who needs more practice’, I think I might actually be able to pick this one up! It will be the first one I try, and I look forward to doing so! As a way to end the album, though, it’s a bit wistful–but not sad at all.16
In closing: Tromper le Temps, je t’aime! This is the start of a beautiful musical friendship!
- If you don’t speak French, fling the next paragraph through Google Translate. Which is, of course, how I built that paragraph to begin with.
- If you do speak French, please, please tell me where I need to refine my grammar!
- “Une grande admiration”: Anna!French for “I fangirl the hell out of these boys”.
- Its stompy, STOMPY shoes. <3
- Note: I didn’t say this would be GOOD French. XD
- <FrenchGIR>J’ai besoin de cet CD! J’en ai besoin ou J’EXPLOSERAI! Cela m’arrive parfois!<FrenchGIR>
- And, of course, learn to sing all the response lines properly to prepare for further concert outings! My fangirly duty: I know it!
- Note to self: at my next Le Vent du Nord show, check and see whether M. Demers has a suspicious glow underneath his shirt.
- And by ‘stop’, I mean, ‘Le Vent du Nord needs to come to Seattle RIGHT NOW and sing to me some more’. I just need to make sure I bring an extra supply of emergency knees, for dancing purposes!
- Said the girl who has no idea how to dance, but who will for Le Vent du Nord dance anyway, as Vancouver proved!
- The word “aujourd’hui” is not enough to build a coherent song, but I can by gods recognize it when I hear it now. It’d be nice if my brain gave me a few more nouns and verbs, though!
- Not that I’ve listened to that album a lot or anything! Because um, yeah. Any album with a Beaudry? Immediate. Undivided. Attention. What can I say? :D
- Turluttes need no translation! HEY UP A DEEDLE DUM DAY DA HEY UP A DEEDLE DUM DAY!
- And I’m not even a hockey fan! But I AM a writer, and I want closure on the metaphor!
- And this is a bit more genteel, I suppose, than Great Big Sea bellowing “AND NEVER TRUST A FELLA WITH A HELMET ON HIS HEAD”, but I daresay these songs could go head to head in a hockey-related musical face-off. :D And now I totally am envisioning Le Vent du Nord vs. Great Big Sea in a hockey match.
- And I have to admit I get a bit of a giggle out of the title, just because both my family and my marketboys like to call me ‘Ang’, which is not unlike ‘ange’ in pronunciation, so now my French parser in my brain keeps wanting to call this one ‘Breath of Angela’, which, given that I’m a flute player, is clearly a SIGN!