François & the Atlas Mountains

Piano Ombre

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Following a pair of sunny, self-produced indie albums, French band François & the Atlas Mountains signed with classic British label Domino Records to release 2012's E Volo Love. With its romantic, breezy indie pop and vaguely African-influenced arrangements, it proved to be a sort of breakout success for the band, which is led by native Frenchman François Marry. Having formerly relocated to Bristol, England to begin his musical career and form the band, Marry has returned to his homeland, repopulating the Atlas Mountains with fellow countrymen for their 2014 release, Piano Ombre. Relying again on a multilingual mix of melodic Afro/indie pop mixed with elements of nouvelle chanson and other French traditions, the band has delivered an ultimately deeper and more soulful album that contains darker undertones than on previous efforts. This change is immediately evident on the stunning opener, "Bois," with its bubbling samples, deep synths, and woozy horns. There's an overall richness to the production that serves the band well even on lighter fare like the lead single "La Vérité" and the charming pop gem "Summer of the Heart." That Piano Ombre is the band's first record to be recorded in a proper studio is a testament to the quality their previous, self-recorded albums. The ten songs, brimming with character and detail, are better captured and better written than before, but not by too wide a margin. Marry has always had vision, and this excellent release seems like the logical next phase in an already impressive career. If E Volo Love was his breakout, Piano Ombre should be the record that will truly resonate with fans.

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