Emilie Simon ‘Mue’ (Blue Wrasse/Universal France) 3/5

Emilie-SimonHow would Kate Bush sound like had she been born in France? Singer-songwriter Emilie Simon provides part of the answer since she possesses a high-pitched girl-like voice not dissimilar to Bush, though on this sixth album overall the ambiance is less folk-inspired and far more aimed squarely at the French pop market. This works best on the pared down numbers such as the folk-tinged song ‘The eye of the moon’, the sole English language composition, and here the influence of Carla Bruni is present and on the excellent melancholic ‘Les amoureux de minuit’ which features a jazz trio style accompaniment on which the album ends on a high note. Strongest of all is the album’s left-field track, ‘Le diamant’, which reveals an interest in Brel in the use of arrangement and the tune itself, and where Simon sounds most reminiscent of Kate Bush with the inclusion of vibes as a lovely touch. There are even shades of Chinese music in both the voice and instrumentation on ‘Perdue dans tes bras’ and this is the song that most successfully combines both layered instrumentation and voice. In places Simon’s sweet melodic voice seems to hint at Joni Mitchell and her ‘Blue’ period. All the more reason, then, to dispense with the bubble gum pop orchestrations elsewhere. It has to be stated that at times the instrumentation is over-produced with songs such as the funky beat ‘Menteur’ and ‘Quand vient le jour’ both suffering from overly slick production. More of the individual in Simon’s voice emerges on ‘Encre’ (Ink) and with minimalist accompaniment the voice is able to breath more easily, though the increasing use of whirling strings does become a distraction here. However, the abiding question one asks of Simon after listening to the album is: does Emilie Simon want to be an out and out pop singer, or an individual singer-songwriter of integrity? If it is indeed the latter, then a more folk and world-roots based approach would certainly help to compliment her vocals.

Tim Stenhouse