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Import Zone | column | Lollipop

Import Zone

By Michael McCarthy

It's appropriate that there's an airplane on the cover of Panavision, the second album from the Montréal trio known as Lili Fatale (Sony Musique, Canada), because it's all over the place, jumping from genre to genre sometimes within the context of a single song. It opens with "Depuis que Tu Es Parti" ("Since You Left"), a track sporting such a furious and intense beat that it calls to mind vintage Iron Maiden in spite of Nathalie Courchesne's sweet melodic vocals and the lack of loud metal guitars (seriously, give it a listen then play Maiden's "Run to The Hills" and you'll see what I mean). It's probably better compared to Garbage's "Temptation Waits," admittedly, but I wouldn't be surprised if Maiden is an influence with so many styles meshed so indelicately on this disc, which is described by its makers as "rétro-futuriste." "Dans le Pays du Froid" ("In the Cold Country") commences with a techno beat that, combined with vocals from Uranian Valcéanu, one of the trio's two males, comes off like Praga Khan. But then Nathalie sings the chorus, which is an enticing interpolation of "Rapture" by Blondie, and takes things to another place entirely. Meanwhile, "Cette Histoire est Insensée Bandito!" has more talking than singing, using dialogue excerpts à la The Avalanches. And the title track is an instrumental that almost sounds like Portishead covering a piece of film score by Ennio Morricone! If you're a self-respecting pop fan, you'll be ready to bow down by the time you get to "Mon Nom est Personne" ("My Name is Nobody"), on which Nathalie commands "pull the trigger... come on girl... pull the fuckin' trigger." (www.lilifatale.com)

In the call-it-mellow-but-definitely-don't-call-it-fluff department, Lisa Sans Son Etoile ("Lisa Without Her Star"), the debut album from Elfy (EMI Music France), probably deserves props just for being one of the few concept albums I've ever listened to without getting bored or downright annoyed halfway through. Perhaps that's partially because my French isn't perfect, allowing me to listen to these folktronica songs without necessarily trying to follow the story. However, its dreamy, fairy-tale-like vibe would surely have hooked me in any case. Sounding like the love child of Air and Dido, "Les Astronautes et Les Princesses" is one of those rare haunting gems you can listen to repeatedly and actually appreciate more with each listen. Along with producer and co-writer Jay Alanski, Elfy has made a subtle but textured lullaby-like album that's already earned her the praise of actress/writer/director Asia Argento and French filmmaker Catherine Breillat, arguably two of the world's most provocative and critical filmmakers. (www.elfylesite.com, www.alanski.com)

Since her debut a few years back, Korea's Lee Soo Young has often been called "the ballad queen," so it comes as no surprise that she opens her third album, Made In Winter (Seoul Records, Inc., Korea), with the luscious ballad after which it's named. Still, one can't help but wish there weren't quite so many ballads on the disc. She's arguably one of the best contemporary ballad singers in the world, but her previous two studio albums also featured at least a few pop songs with a catchy beat. Then again, there are a few attempts at straightforward pop here, but they're not nearly as memorable as the ballads, so I should probably quit complaining. It's just that last year's live album, 2001 Live (also on Seoul Records), consisted entirely of ballads, leaving many of her fans hoping she'd do more pop or r&b on her next studio release. That said, 2001 Live is essential for even casual ballad fans with not only powerful renditions of her biggest hits, but covers ranging from classics like "Killing Me Softly With His Song" and "Just the Two of Us" to No Doubt's "Don't Speak," the later of which is a haunting acoustic performance.

Anything but an album of ballads is Paradize, the long-awaited new album from Indochine (Columbia, France), arguably the most famous – and the most talented – veterans of the French rock scene internationally. I'm not sure they'd appreciate the comparison, but I've often thought of them as a heavier, French version of Duran Duran. For some reason Paradize continues to remind me of Duran Duran in spite of the industrial vibe that dominates many of the tracks, perhaps because of the often irresistible melodic choruses. Many of these songs will make you want to dance and bang your head at the time, which I suppose is an accomplishment right there. The album is not without its mellow moments, however, one of the highlights being "Le Grand Secret," an eerie duet with Hole's Melissa Auf Der Maur, who also plays bass on the track. (www.indo.fr)  


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