Cœur de Pirate

Blonde

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Discovered via MySpace, classically trained pianist Beatrice Martin, aka Coeur de Pirate, became one of the few contemporary Francophone singers to make any waves with English-speaking audiences with her self-titled, 2008 debut spending nearly two years on the Canadian charts. Considering its unexpected, slow-burning success, it would be difficult to blame her for sticking to its tried-and-tested, intimate, piano-led balladry formula, but perhaps keen to show that she's not simply a one-trick pony, her follow-up, Blonde, instead revels in an effortlessly cool, retro Gallic pop sound inspired by the likes of Françoise Hardy and Brigitte Bardot. The brief, 72-second opener "Leve Les Voiles," a festive-sounding choral piece performed by Les Petits Chanteurs de Laval, sets the playful tone as she skips from dramatic tango ("Danse et Danse") to shuffling, old-school country (the Sam Roberts duet "Loin d'Ici"), to jaunty cabaret ("Golden Baby") in a seductive yet ever so slightly menacing style befitting a modern femme fatale. Co-produced with Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire), even her ventures into more familiar territory are given an edge, whether it's the creeping double bassline and stomping percussion of lead single "Adieu," or the dramatic strings which close the emotive chamber pop of "Place de la Republique," while the kittenish Vanessa Paradis-esque "Les Amours Devouees" and the Spector-ish girl group pop of "Verseau" prove she can tackle romance and heartbreak in equal measure. A brave leap forward from a hugely gifted songwriter, Blonde is perhaps one of the most enchanting and authentic retro-pop efforts of the year.

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