Friday, December 19th, 2014

Christine and the Queens – Saint Claude

Thank you, Will.


W.B. Swygart: ‘Be Mine!’ in a world where she doesn’t actually know them, and they surely don’t know her. Christine (not her real name, doesn’t matter) projects her hatred for the city she lives in onto a girl on the bus/tram/train – someone new, someone different, someone who makes her think she’s not alone in this part of town. “We are so lonely” – in her head the click is instant, a kinship suddenly springs to life, complete with fully formed pasts and futures; that sudden giddy rush where you want to be right so very hard that you confuse that for being right (who’s projecting on who, again?). This being a modern charting pop single (in France, but the rules aren’t that different), the heroine doesn’t perhaps have quite that level of self-analysis going on – but: “Here’s my station/But if you say just one word I’ll stay with you”. She needs to be noticed, too; she needs to be affirmed, to be right. She can’t have it just be her that feels this way. “Et cette ville est morte, je sais bien/Toi seul garde de l’audace” – in this imaginary conversation they’re having, she’s putting her words in the stranger’s mouth so she can agree with them. With no conversation, nothing beyond glances (accompanied by what sounds like some furious mental note-taking on her fashion statements), this stranger has become something Christine needs, prays to be true. ‘Saint Claude’, then, is one of those songs where single moments blow up into something enormous, and all the bottles inside you just start spilling out; even if you don’t show it. Because you’re on a bus. Those bubbly synths are fantastic too; snapping as the dream begins, then floating away as it dies.

Josh Winters: My 2014 in music has been largely defined by a collection of soft electro-pop (and I’m using that genre tag as a vague catch-all) singles – all with varying scope, perspective, and potency – made by introverted twenty-something women experiencing complex narratives of urban isolation and longing, their stories mirroring my reclusive life in a number of ways I’m still trying to understand. I’m amazed to hear strains of those songs in this one, from the majestic strings in Rae Morris’ “Do You Even Know?” and the placid pads in Shura’s “Touch,” to the deep synth burbles in Indiana’s “Solo Dancing” and that piano in Sofi de la Torre’s “Vermillion” that feels like the weight of a thousand hammers. A compilation containing these songs would easily be my favorite record of the year. I see this one as the closer, with Christine traversing across this mythological city they all seem to be stuck in, acknowledging each of them from afar as she goes her own path.

Brad Shoup: The split between languages is a perfect division between internal monologue and actual conversation. Even if the text is screenplay-precious, when Letissier floats into the chorus it’s quite moving. The track is bashful, full of quietly exhaling hi-hat and narrow pillars of bass: the sound of things barely left said.

Alfred Soto: “A mix of music, performance, art videos, drawings and photography,” I read about Héloïse Letissier’s project. It might be. I’m judging her act on song alone: twinkly and arranged with care, but with a voice too coy for my taste.

Iain Mew: My internal retreat soundtrack continues apace. This one offers a glimpse of possible escape, but Christine conveys powerfully that the oncoming storm of loneliness was always favourite to win out.

Micha Cavaseno: So when are we going to get past the garageband IDM songwriter stuff? I don’t care if someone considers it ‘synthpop’ — The Human League was amazing whereas this production beyond the saw/theramin howls bringing us in and opening the door for our escape has been redundant for years. You took the time to go beyond the simple strum of the acoustic guitar, but you should at least take the time to be your most unique if you want your songs to truly part the sea.

Katherine St Asaph: “Here’s my station” is inherently final — I always think of the “Stina Nordenstam song” — and usually a subliminal plea: something could happen here, but it won’t. This is the musical correlative: gorgeous as possibility, swooning and delicate as worlds we keep inside our heads, and tiny as worlds we never seem to bring out of them.

Will Adams: What a year for lonely city synthpop. “Saint Claude” is reliably gorgeous, its wistfulness derived from its feather-light production that sounds a breath away from dissolving into the glass harmonica sobs that open and close the song. The kicker is the ending, when the French and English lyrics intertwine, but never quite touching. “We are so lonely,” goes the English; “Pour que l’orage s’annonce” (so the storm comes) goes the French. This is the type of tranquility you’ll find on a late night train, the steady tempo of the tracks droning over your headphones, drowning out everything but whatever is most important for you to hear.

Patrick St. Michel: A pretty good representation of how I wish ballads in the 21st century sounded. 

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One Response to “Christine and the Queens – Saint Claude”

  1. i listened to her album chaleur humaine last night after i finished my blurb and it’s great, one of the best pop records i’ve heard all year in fact. there’s an official playlist streaming on youtube; i highly recommend seeking it out.