French cinematic pop mistress Owlle gives us F R A N C E, a testing but mostly entertaining debut album
rance Picoule, aka Owlle, has been quoted as enjoying mixing different atmospheres. Describing her music as a way for her to tell stories and embrace freedom, F R A N C E is a pop album that touches on many sub-genres.
Opening track and new single Fog is a dark, ethereal synth heavy number. Showcasing Owlle’s brooding, androgynous voice, it demonstrates a palette of influences that range from Depeche Mode to a braver New Young Pony Club. F R A N C E then moves to go from sound to sound. Your Eyes comes across like an ode to Electric Youth’s iconic Real Hero, the catchy Ticky Ticky recalls ABBA’s Honey, Honey, while Silence sounds like an alien abduction reminiscent of the synthpop of Ladyhawke. However it’s Creed and 9 that are the records real highlights. The former veers between a less haunted version of Purity Ring and the silken R&B of TLC, while the later sees Owlle becoming an autotuned robot, creating a dreamy mellow number that’s mostly instrumental.
Not every attempt at genre grabbing works though, as seen in Like A Bow. Here Owlle’s attempt at dubstep – a genre that’s taken something of a nosedive in recent years, as its founders and main players have ventured into new electronic sounds – clashes discordantly with the rest of the album, with its lack of pace or direction bringing an unwanted originality to her music.
Though Owlle has stated that she plays on the contrasts, the individual songs are missing the common ground that makes them recognisably her own. Although it seems intentional that all her songs sound different, it gives the album an almost over-produced feel. To some Owlle’s lack of identity could be seen as her trade mark, and something that fits among left field pop’s domination by the likes of Grimes and the FKA Twigs – artists who have both taken artistic and experimental music to new heights. Another thought is that perhaps a lot of the poetry of her songs is lost in translation.
F R A N C E is a bizarre and charming mixture of genres and is still immediately better than the vast majority of pop music out there. Owlle will gain a lot of fans from this effort.
Verdict: A decent record from an erudite writer trying to find her place in the field