The Little Things That Count

October 17, 2006By Heidi EllisonWhat's New Art & Culture

The Little Things That Count

Delerm’s voice is less croaky on his new album.

Vincent Delerm, who brought something new to French pop music with his frog-in-the-throat voice, quirky phrasing and lighthearted, often nostalgic lyrics (as in the song “Les Filles de 1973 Ont 30 Ans,” or “Girls Born in 1973 Are Now 30 Years Old,” for example), released his third album, Les Piqûres d’Araignée, Vincent Delerm (Tôt ou Tard), this month. It quickly shot up to the top spot in the French charts.

Disappointingly, the songs on the new album, while mostly pleasant enough to listen to, lack the eccentricity that made some of his previous songs so original. The voice is smoother, less croaky, and some of the songs have a bouncy sweetness that verges on bubble gum (“Sous les Avalanches,” for example, with its sugary female backup vocals).

Some of the simple tunes on Les Piqûres d’Araignée have a catchy appeal, among them “Sépia Plein les Doigts,” which, ironically, mocks those who are nostalgia for the past. Others, like “Ambroise Paré,” about a dying man in a hospital trying to reassure a visitor, or “29 Avril au 28 Mai,”) are quiet and sober.

Like most French songwriters (he wrote the music and lyrics for the entire album, with help from Peter Von Poehl on “Favourite Song”), Delerm writes poetic lyrics that bear paying attention to, and the range of moods in these songs is notable, from the longing of “Marine” to the lighthearted “Il Fait si Beau,” about a day so beautiful that you’d be willing to open the door to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, pet a guard dog and love everybody, even meter maids.

Delerm was once called “the guy you’d love to hate” by Gilles Renault of the newspaper Libération because he’s the son of a schoolteacher, something of a poseur, looks like a good student who succeeds at everything he tries and appeals to women. “L’horreur,” wrote Renault, who then had to admit that he was won over by the singer whose father, Philippe Delerm, is indeed a schoolteacher, who became famous at the age of 47 with his book “La Première Gorgée de Bière” (“The First Sip of Beer”) a series of poetic vignettes focusing on the little joys in life. Vincent seems to have inherited his father’s sharp eye for and appreciation of those little things.

Heidi Ellison

© 2006 Paris Update

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