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There's a lot to be thankful for from the 70s, especially since many elements of disco and funk have been making a comeback over the last few years. French house duo Justice's third album Woman takes the disco influence to another level, but does it translate well in a modern setting?
What's most immediately noticeable about the record is its funkiness. 'Safe and Sound' rolls the album in, the dance vibes resonating with lots of character about the sweet bassline. You're going to want to get up and move around to this track. 'Pleasure' follows through with similar sweetness, though much more restrained and refined. There's less party in this disco and more thought into it. Another song that really brings the groove is 'Fire.'
The second of the album is much more different in terms of disco. There's some experimentation and risks taken on this half. It kicks off with the dinky, sweet synths of 'Stop,' innocently dancing above the the full bassline. The wallowing, seven-minute long epic 'Chorus' is the most invigorating track on the record, built with an urgency that none of the other songs quite reach. Perhaps its the space-opera vibe of the synths or the quickly changing parts of the song, but 'Chorus' really rings as something special in the tracklist.
For this record, all of the good moments are sadly usually paired with bad ones. There really isn't any climax on this album besides the variety of 'Chorus,' which in itself isn't particularly exciting, just interesting. There's drawn out moments like that of the six-minute 'Randy.' It's like they tried emulating the formula of 'Chorus' but in the most standard way possible.
Then there are places where some ideas just don't develop enough. 'Heavy Metal' starts off dark and with a very interesting melody and vibe. It doesn't follow through for the rest of the track, going back to the upbeat disco vibe almost out of nowhere. 'Alakazam !' is a cool instrumental, but it doesn't really add anything of interest to the album.
Justice is a prolific band, but Woman doesn't seem to support that. It's full of tastes of goodness, but there's no serving. It's lacking where it can't afford to, and the jumbled mess that it is doesn't satisfy any listening wants. Woman isn't what it could have been.
Favorite Track: Chorus
Least Favorite Tracks: Alakazam !, Close Call
Rating: 70 / 100
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