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Lou Doillon


[Verve; 2013]

By ; July 3, 2013 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Look at Lou Doillon’s family ties (step-daughter of Serge Gainsbourg; half-sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg; daughter of Jane Birkin) and you’ll be surprised she hasn’t released an album sooner. But after watching the music industry make its mark on the aforementioned icons, Doillon was able to gain an understanding of how it works and consequently how she could get it to work best for her. “I guess if I was 20 and didn’t know any of [this], I could end up doing some very stupid things just because people think they have good ideas,” she recently said in an interview with The Quietus.

It’s odd then that her debut album, Places, plays like that of someone who has submitted to a bit too much studio sheen. It’s hard to say where these songs began, but if it was a case that Doillon arrived in the studio with some bare piano or acoustic guitar tracks, then that’s mostly disguised here. Doillon certainly takes advantage of having a band at her disposal, and they’re a versatile bunch, too, allowing her to try out a few styles to see where she might find a place to sit comfortably in the future. Thankfully the likes of bombast and excess aren’t to be heard here, and Doillon still stays in the centre as the track stay rooted in her near-deadpan confessional singing voice.

At her best, she’s lamenting over past lovers in a way that allows her personality to shine through. “Devil or Angel” stands out, drifting by smoothly with some gentle guitar and piano and a secretly energetic high-hat rhythm that unobtrusively sets up the foundation for Doillon to sound at her most nonchalant while also sounding like she’s keeping back a sly smirk. “Honey, you’re so quick to skip from praise to slander,” she quips gently, most likely giving the finger to the press and paparazzi which have played a huge part of her life. Opening track “ICU” also fares well: a piano ballad that Doillon herself calls “a sad song for sad girls” and is exactly that. It’s relatable to anyone who has spent a heartbroken afternoon wandering places you’d visit with your former other half, lingering a little too deeply on how the other might be feeling. “And of course I wonder/ does it happen to you?/ Does my ghost ever come/ looking for you?” she sings in a soft conversational tone.

That aforementioned band and the styles Doillon tries out makes for differing results. “Make A Sound” has a sleek country sheen while “Defiant” has something of a light staccato blues punch, both of which make for amicable listens that are avenues Doillon wouldn’t be worse off for exploring. “Jealousy” and “One Day After Another,” on the hand, are probably the weakest cuts here; the former has a piano melody much too derivative of the Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon” and nothing to make it otherwise memorable while “One Day After Another” just sounds iffy and uncooked, with misplaced militaristic drumming, crunchy little handclap sounds, and a chorus that never really takes the track anywhere.

The remaining tracks are ones that hit the middling ground between the better and worse. “Hushaby” lingers dreamily with a light harpsichord arpeggio and is a very modest attempt at a more groundless song structure, but it’s not memorable enough outside of this to act as an anomaly. “Questions And Answers” perks up proceedings as the album comes to its climax, but the limelight of the album’s latter half is taken by the closing title track. “Places” is actually the odd one here: over a mournful piano melody, Doillon again returns to singing/speaking as she attacks and questions the human desire to constantly expand, which makes for a welcome break from her overused lamenting of past lovers (though it could be read as but another one). “We built the machines, the trains, the planes, the cars of our dreams,” she offers as a realisation as the music behind her gradually picks up the pace, adding drums and a female choir. She can’t quite keep up with the climax, and as it reaches its peak, she reverts to uttering the track’s title over and over, like the whole experience has made her dizzy. It’s not as dramatic as it could be, but relatively speaking, a midst the modesty of the rest of the album, it’s fitting and suitable. Chances are it would have been more satisfying had the album been filled with more substantial material, but this is still a good place for Doillon to move on from. If she chooses to pursue the musical pathway further, it might just take her to better places still.


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