Suite Sixtine

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Lio's sophomore effort was an unusual collaboration and time marker of sorts, in that a number of the songs came from her debut, but this time translated into English (or simply rewritten) in the hopes of finding a wider audience. Even more unusual, though not inappropriate or surprising given previous French successes in their own right, was the choice of producers and translators -- none other than Ron and Russell Mael, aka the geniuses behind Sparks. Suite Sixtine sonically fits in perfectly with the Maels' own particular early-'80s obsessions, with synths and choppy arrangements marking the record from the bubbly, frenetic start thanks to the sweetly hyperactive title track. Given the Anglophilic vision of French pop as always being more of a languorous bent crossed with '60s-style arrangements, it's actually refreshing in context to hear this much more electronic effort, though nods to the past are always present, notably including a striking remake of Serge Gainsbourg's "Baby Lou." The string-laden "Mona Lisa" is an easy standout, finding a lush intersection between Euro-disco and a more classic pop bent, while "Marie Antoinette" is pure new wave mania that wouldn't have been out of place on a Rezillos release. "Sage Comme une Image," also featured in an extended version on the 2006 reissue, is even more of a glorious dancefloor move, transforming 1976-era strings and beats fully to a French context with twinkling synth breaks on the chorus to boot. Meantime, the Mael lyrical touch is immediately apparent on songs like "Clothes" and "Housewife of the Year," itself another triumph of Mael-style arranging. Besides the extended "Sage Comme une Image," the bonus tracks include snarky wonders like "Baby You're Weird" and the Latin confection "South of the Border."

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