Album Review: Laure Briard – Ne Pas Trop Rester Bleue

[Midnight Special; 2023]

Laure Briard knows a thing or two about love. She has, after all, been singing about it in some form or another for pretty much of all her recorded career. But on her fourth album, Ne pas trop rester bleue, she’s done with the heartache that comes with it. Channelling feelings of insecurity and doubt, across the 10 tracks of the album, Briard looks to break free from overcast clouds that loom over her. (The album title translates to “don’t stay too blue.”) Renewal and rebirth are now top of her agenda, and with a perky disposition – and plenty of influence from 60s French pop and the likes of Carole King – Briard saunters forwards with a pep in her step.

And while Briard’s honeyed voice is front and centre, it’s her supporting band who perhaps shine best of all. Julien Gasc, Vincent “Octopus” Guyot, and Raphaël Léger (along with plenty of other guests and additional instrumentation) make for a tight unit that captures that bright temperament; more often or not it’s the musical moments that pique your attention and keep you coming back. The woodwind swirling amid the jaunty amble of “Sur mes joues rosées” makes for a sultry tone; the syrupy bass, pizzicato plucks, and velvety staccato flute outro on lead single “My love is right” is an unexpected and dynamic step outside the box; the sprightly bongos add colour to the album’s title track; and the latin rhythms on “Me pardonner” feel like a welcome leftover influence of her two Brazilian-inspired EPs Coração Louco and Eu Voo. At times there may not be much to dig your teeth into on Ne pas trop rester bleue, but it’s hard to say that it doesn’t sound downright peachy.

It’s also hard to believe that the album took some three years to come into existence, as the 10 tracks here have a kind of rambling ease about themselves. Briard’s words, too, come with a sort of smooth insecurity, like the first thoughts written down were focused on. “I have to clean the bad vibrations / make everything ok,” she reiterates on “My love is right”, before fixing herself into an upright position to state the song’s titular sentiment during the chorus. Elsewhere on “Not Evil” she paints a downcast picture (“It’s gonna take a miracle / To overcome all the blows / Dug deep inside my soul”), but like many of the tracks here, Briard always comes back to reassure herself that thinking and acting in her own interest is acceptable.

While sometimes her character studies are a little flat (“Lady Adventurer”), again, it’s the musical side of things that make the album an enjoyable listen. “Magical Cowboy” melds together a Beatles-esque jangle with a country flavour (and maybe even a little bit of a Broadway feel too). It might be a little silly and overcooked, but even as Briard goes for the spoken word outro, she sounds entirely in on the lightheartedness of it all.  

And at the end of the album, the best and most memorable sidestep comes along. “Au diable le coeur arraché” spends its last minute in a squall of itchy feedback and a wall of noise from guitars and organs. It’s a kinetic moment of energy that feels ferocious compared to the sound of the rest of the album, and it’s also all too fleeting. But even as it seems like storm clouds have been summoned instead of sunshine, the album’s theme still remains. From a tempest comes a peace, and an opportunity for the sun to shine again. “New love awaits,” Briard seems to say, whatever form that love may be.