In listening to music that is sung in a different language than one in which you are fluent in, things can seem a bit overwhelming. What you tend to tune into with foreign music like this is the melodies and the instrumental. As an American, that's what I went through listening to La Femme's new album Mystére.
Taking French classes throughout my life, I was able to piece bits and pieces together, but after summer break I've been a bit rusty. So while I can pick out words and phrases, I can never substantiate a meaning, leaving the instrumental to do all of the talking. With this album, though, it leaves me wondering if the meaning of the words is what makes these songs.
Mystére is the band's sophomore release, and for what it's worth, it continues to showcase the band's diversity. Almost every track is something different - opening number 'Sphynx', the album's gem, builds over its five-minute length with rising and falling synth arpeggios forming an electronic storm. The next song 'Le Vide Est Ton Nouveau Prénom' then sees an acoustic instrumentation, sounding almost like an old baroque piece. Later pieces are more experimental, such as the hauntingly orchestrated 'Al Warda' and the indie pop flair of 'Tatiana'.
While it has diversity, it doesn't necessarily have quality. After the album's strong start is masked by a plethora of forgettable and seemingly filler tracks. It's beginning appeal doesn't even last all that long; by the fourth song 'Septembre' you have to ask if you've accidentally stumbled onto a children's French album instead of an impressive electronic experience.
Experimentation and diversity is welcomed, if not encouraged, on any album. The only restriction should be if you can create something still cohesive and good. This album is all over the place and that really brings it down. There's just a lot of things to question on this record, including the drawn out, thirteen minute track 'Vagues'. It really doesn't need to be that long.
La Femme may be an important band for France's indie scene, but this album is simply a mess. The ideas are all there, and they could've been great, had there been more cohesion between tracks. Mystére feels lost in its own execution. Before they progress further, they need to step back and tackle one thing at a time and really nail that. Then figure out how to blend styles into a cohesive experiment.
Favorite Track: Sphynx
Least Favorite Tracks: Septembre, Vagues, S.S.D.
Rating: 61 / 100