Françoise Hardy

Clair Obscur

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Hardy's 1996 album, Le Danger, was not great, but it was a respectable and, more importantly, fairly hard-rocking effort that did much to restore her credibility after a very desultory output in the 1980s. Her follow-up, 2000's Clair Obscur, unfortunately erases a good deal of the ground she regained with her previous record. It is, at least, not nearly as over-produced or bathed in mediocre period-pop production as her 1980s releases were, and her voice remains in astonishingly good shape. It is, however, mostly devoted to genteel, sentimental pop songs that bounce by amiably, but don't penetrate or inspire, either melodically or vocally. At times these sound like soundtrack pieces from the kind of French movies that make it to the arthouse circuit not because they're good, but because they're French and sentimental. Four duets are included, among them tracks on which she sings with fellow French stars Jacques Dutronc and Etienne Daho, the latter of those being an English-language cover of the Everly Brothers' "So Sad." More surprisingly, "I'll Be Seeing You" is a duet with Iggy Pop, though those expecting a rock-fest will be disappointed, as it's a lightweight -- "bouncy" is again the unavoidable adjective -- interpretation of the ancient pop standard, with an uncharacteristically reserved, straight vocal from the Igster. The more haunted and sad the tunes are, the better, as proven by "La Verite Des Choses" and "Contre Vents et Marees," but those songs aren't good enough to redeem the album.

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