Stéphanie Lapointe

I'd been busy mapping-out some ideas for future blog posts (just like buses, the albums I've been waiting for always seem to come along at once), when an innocent looking email suggested that I really should take a listen to the new album by the Montréalaise singer-actress-author and humanitarian Stéphanie Lapointe...

To be honest I'd already been wowed by Stéphanie's single "La fuite" - a beautifully evocative chanson that immediately transports you back to les années soixante and the iconic French pop of that era - but I have to admit that I was seriously unprepared for the audacious quality of her album "Les amours parallèles."

Surrounding herself amongst the crème of Québec's song-writing and composing talent (to name but a few, there's Philippe B - winner of two Félix at this year's ADISQ Gala, Jimmy Hunt - GAMIQ award winner and Polaris nominee, award winning poet Kim Doré alongside Émilie Laforest and Joseph Marchand of Blog favourites, Forêt - who also produced this album) and with a mesmerising voice that the team at Filles Sourires would describe as a nailed-on Fille Fragile, Stéphanie enchantingly paints ten intimate portraits that describe the many facets of love; good and bad, escapism, forgiveness, loss, grief and desire...

The album opens with a Philippe B composition, "L'oiseau mécanique" which - from the opening bars of the piano to the magical way that Stéphanie's vocals softly seemingly just floats above the clouds - is the first example of the type of timeless song that define this album; and while there are definite undercurrents of the sixties that are woven throughout the fabric of the songs, all could have been written anytime over the past fifty years. It's as if a brief moment in time has been captured and frozen for all eternity.

The album also feels very French - it resonates with the echoes of Françoise Hardy, France Gall and Jane Birkin, whose "Pourquoi" has been lovingly reinterpreted here; the piano of the original is replaced by a simple acoustic guitar and in Stéphanie's hands (and voice) this tale of forgiveness feels somehow more contrite and poignant - it's quite beautifully constructed. 

For an album that has a very retro-sixties feel (indeed, even the album artwork harks back to the time and
the newspaper Le Devoir is moved to comment, "Stéphanie Lapointe sings about the loves of today in the style of yesterday") there's only one song here that's actually from that era. "Un jour comme un autre" was originally performed by Brigitte Bardot on her 1964 album "BB." Here the song is credited to the incorrigible Serge Gainsbourg - but while it also appears on the pair's 1968 album "Bonnie & Clyde" - I think this version is the Gérard Bourgeois, Gloria Lasso and Jean-Max Rivière composition (although what do I know?) With this interpretation Stéphanie brings a contemporary feel to the song and the nuance in her voice perfectly captures that feeling of resignation and despair... 

Mention has to be made of the two stunning duets on the album - both written and composed by their respective co-vocalists. I have to admit to being  particularly enamoured by the angelic harmonies of Stéphanie and Philémon Cimon's on "De mon enfance" and the way in which the simple acoustic guitar accompaniment captures the mood of innocence. The song is followed by the album's only English-language offering, Leif Vollebekk's "Not a moment too soon," an incredibly haunting song of sombre and imposing orchestral strings, gentle soothing piano and arresting vocals, which offers proof - if yet more was needed - that a great song will always surmount linguistic divides.

Then there's the combination of Stéphanie's soothing vocals and the rich, flowing arrangements Émilie Laforest and Joseph Marchand that compliment Kim Doré's poetic lyrics for both "N'entre pas sans désir" and "Personne pour l'entendre", the uplifting and inspirational title track (another Philippe B composition) and the haunting resonance of the English horn on the album's closer "Nous revenons de loin."
I have to be careful lest I start running out of superlatives. Truthfully though this is a frighteningly consistent album.

There are also some incredibly thoughtful touches that help bind the songs on this album - heavenly choirs flit in and out of the spotlight, the arrangements - be it strings, piano or acoustic guitar - all perfectly capture the particular mood of a song.
I'd argue that in many respect this is very much a concept album that revolves around themes of love in all it's many guises.
In 2005, Stéphanie's debut album "Sur le fil" garnered two ADISQ Gala nominations. In my humble opinion (which is after all what this blog is all about) serious questions will need to be asked should "Les amours parallèles" not receive serious consideration for next year's awards season...

To be honest I thought I'd already discovered my album of the year (or at least whittled it down to a reasonably short-list). Now I'm not so sure... Frankly - and lets not beat about the bush here - "Les amours parallèles" is nothing short of a masterpiece...

Stéphanie Lapointe Website
"Les amours parallèles" (Simone Records), (Bandcamp), iTunes)