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Christine and the Queens - La Vita Nuova (Album Review)

Monday, 09 March 2020 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Camille Vivier

Eighteen months on from ‘Chris’, Héloïse Letissier’s slightly underwhelming second album, we have ‘La Vita Nuova’, a six track EP of stunningly accomplished electro pop that revisits the quality, grooves and originality of her first record, ‘Chaleur Humaine’.

It is released alongside a short film directed by Colin Solal Cardo that combines thrilling choreography and astounding image-making. Truly, the EP accompanies the film and not vice versa.

We open with People, I’ve been sad, a title that suggests a millennial Tweet about a temper tantrum, but which is in fact a darling little electro slow jam.

Part of the joy of listening to Letissier is that despite her Franglais lyrics occasionally sounding underwritten, they often point to a greater truth devoid of rhetorical evasion: the words need to stay fairly simple despite the complexity of the emotions involved. Actually, that lyrical refrain might recall a style of MC last seen during the death throes of Chicago house music. Darryl Pandy casts a long shadow.

Je disparais dans tes bras (‘I disappear in your arms’) is also superb. A daunting jiver built around a foghorn bassline, it builds with textures, call-and-response motifs and brilliantly direct lyrics, all sung in French: “Pourrais-tu m’aimer? Ça j’en doute / Quand tu ne prends que ce que tu veux de moi.” (“Could you love me? I doubt it / When you only take what you want from me”). 

Last summer, Letissier duetted with Charli XCX on a saucy if slightly lame single, Gone. For the title track here Letissier duets with former Chairlift singer Caroline Polachek with far superior results. The song, a kind-of electro power ballad, is this time delivered in Italian and English and has a magnetic, hovering quality that draws you in close before flirtily pushing you away. Polachek’s immense vocal talents are tear-inducing (in a good way) and the video is a vampire rave set in a Paris Opera House. Watch it now.

It has been said that the secret of a good artist is knowing when a piece of work is finished. That is an oversimplification; there is no single secret, but what 'La Vita Nuova' tells us is that Letissier's theatre training probably helps her stand out. This EP makes recent releases from Grimes and La Roux look creatively pedestrian and commercially craven. 'La Vita Nuova' is the work of a true superstar, who knows her craft incredibly well, and will probably keep on improving.

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