Single Review – Christine and the Queens – Girlfriend

Heloise Letissier as Christine and the Queens returns off the back of a masterful Pop record from 2016. It was minimalistic, energetic and intelligent. In 2018 she looks to start ‘a new chapter’ firstly by striking out most of her stage name in promotional material, leaving the name Chris from it. With regards to this she said “It’s interesting, the process of striking something out, it’s perverting something, but you don’t make it disappear.” Beyond that, her as yet unnamed second album is set to a bold affair that is more up tempo and more elaborate reference pints with a rough edge.

Her latest single ‘Girlfriend’ features Funk artist Dam Funk and certainly ditches the subtlety, heavily laden with Funk instrumentation. There’s no denying that she suits the environment as she effortlessly rolls off each lyric which are raw in their passion as opposed to the intricacies of her debut. It’s a switch also performed with ease. Though she owns the sound, it’s a well worn one and not as uniquely functional as her debut record. You’d still hope for Heloise to inject some inventiveness to marry with her new approach elsewhere in any new album.

Owen Riddle

Musicandotherthingz Best Album of 2016

Our final and biggest category had a wide spread of votes for all the albums featured on it and this is testament to the closely matched level of excellence from all of our nominees on the long list. This meant a lot of them came close to reaching the top of the voting pile with Childish Gambino’s late addition, Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, Blood Orange Paul Simon and Frank Ocean all getting close, but not as close as our top three who feature in descending order. 

3. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (11.11% of the vote)

As Q-Tip suggested, this will be the groups final album and was only recorded because of their anger and dismay at the world around them. Their sixth album was started in secret just after the Paris attacks and completed in November this year at the peak of this dismay. With a long list of collaborations and excellent, diverse production, they were able to produce an album as relevant as ever and a defiant shout of unity amongst a nation and a world that’s tearing itself apart. If that is their final album, it’s an album that will be rated as one of their best. 

2. Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine (18.00%)

Since she’s featured so highly in almost every category she was placed in, you are probably very familiar with all the superlatives attributed to her. She is a magnificent performer, lyricist, vocalist and producer and throughout her debut album, there are no points of weakness. Each song is its own beacon to a particular set of thoughts, set to slick and ambitiously minimalist music or gracefully arranged pieces. The album is bursting with emotion and eccentricity in equal measure and this is perhaps key, for these two traits are often so divorced from each other, yet she winds them together with style and confidence. 

1. David Bowie – Blackstar (22.22%) 

Bowie left a terrifying and wondrous parting gift to the world with Blackstar. It was an album made up of complex fusions, melodies and rhythms as if the creation of a mad scientist of which Bowie must serve as the closest musical equivalent. What’s more intriguing about the album, and this is something not widely picked up on, but it’s his most personal album. Amidst the great characters and stylistic personas of that thread through Bowie’s career, his final album showed him to be just as vulnerable, scared and curious as the rest of us. Amongst all of the seemingly invincible and otherworldly alter-egos, Bowie playing the role of a mere human is perhaps the most powerful character of all. 

Owen Riddle 

Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine Review

The reserved and quiet Héloïse Letissier from Nantes becomes Christine at night, in the studio and in front of thousands, even millions when you look at the view count of her videos on Youtube or her almost cult performance on The Daily Show in America in December. Before that performance, she was already a superstar in France and on the continent, but that is Christine’s domain and it is her that we shall speak of. She is being hailed as the next stage of Pop evolution with her streamlined, yet graceful arrangement and delivery along with the slickest of slick production. When you tie this to her introspective and assertive lyrics and solid Pop harmonies then you see Pop as a genre being pushed beyond it’s perceived limits. File Christine next to Grimes and FKA Twigs for acts who are pushing the boundaries of popular music. The question has to be; is she even better than her innovative contemporaries?

‘Tilted’ is the single that most people are familiar with and the track coolly announces itself with short, whirred synth chords and light, echoed overtures with a simple whispered backbeat behind it. Christine’s vocals are as clear as glass and fit around the sounds hand in glove. Her vocals swing from calm reassurance to selective bursts of fluent vocal harmony. Once the arrangement pulls back we are shown through her French rap from blocky and bold transitioning to hushed and easy tones that her range is more wider than we thought. It is a song that does so much without much effort. The sounds are minimal, yet infectious and catchy. Each hook is perfectly balanced and advanced by vocals that are masters of their surroundings. Beyond this, it is just ridiculously stylish. One of the best Pop tracks of the year. ‘iT’ is a track that opens with spaced out piano chords and vocal murmurings with Christine’s vocals isolated vocals driving the song with raspy bursts. When set against the soft nudging electronica and distorted bass samples, we see power resonating from the soft edged arrangement. The power of her self-discovering lyrics and embracing of the individual are just as potent as the vocals that deliver them. We find a contemporary, graceful ballad in ‘Saint Claude’. Between the strung out piano chords, subtle whirring synths and slightly distorted hip hop beat sample, there is yet another vocal variant in Christine’s faint falsetto alternating with her lowered tones. String sections roll in with her rising falsettos in a somewhat cheesy fashion, but it functions with the nature of the track.

Darker shifts and clasps define the rhythmic, yet mysterious track that is ‘Narcisuss Is Back’. The arrangement moves cleanly from echoed, lone vocals to rumbling electronica in the most natural fashion. Spared loud points of vibrant electronics ring out at intervals across the song. ‘No Harm Is Done’ with Tunji Ige is a piece of Hip Hop greatness with power behind each beat. It goes on to shift to a more gradual motion as the track is led by a leading bass line before easily throwing itself back into those heady beats. Christine’s vocals are complimented by Tunji’s gruff harmonies. Another example of the diversity on show. ‘Jonathan’ with Perfume Genius is a beautifully delivered, tragic swoon with Mike Hadreas’ quivering tones met with strings whilst Christine’s wistful French prose met with blocky synth chords. The song entwines electronica and string orchestras in an unheard and lifting fashion. A wonderful and dignified track. ‘Here’ is another effortless delivery of vocal variation in an imitation of the rising tones of the chords around her. Even the comparatively weaker tracks on the album feature popping beats and seamless transitions from English to French. Each track receives the respect of urgency or contemplation depending on the feel and is produced as wonderfully as Christine delivered the songs. This is quite simply Pop mastery. Pure and Simple. Remember the name, but more importantly the sound.

Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine – 9/10

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995