Emilie Simon

The Flower Book

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The French singer Emilie Simon had already logged a couple of albums at home when she was tapped to record the soundtrack for the French edition of the hit film March of the Penguins. It won her a couple of awards and landed her an American record deal, resulting in this compilation of material from that soundtrack and Simon's two earlier French releases. A beguiling pastiche of electronica, trip-hop, quasi-ambient music, indie rock, and whimsical dance-pop, The Flower Book is alternately wistful, adventurous, sensual, brooding, and playful. Simon has it in her to let loose, and she does, but her baby-girl voice can't help but cover the whole of the record in a soft, comfy blanket. While that lends a lullaby quality to much of it, at times there's an inescapable mischievousness to her delivery that leaves no doubt she's not as timid as she sounds. Nowhere is that clearer than in Simon's cover of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog," stripped of all venom and rage. But while such a move might seem calculated, there's no posing here, only a willingness to explore possibilities. Simon seems equally at home singing in both English and French, and she's eager to integrate a multitude of textures and moods. She also produced, arranged, wrote, and performed much of the music, and while that's admirable, of course, she sometimes missteps -- an overseer to tell her no when she needs to hear no might not be a bad idea in the future. But those missteps don't come often: at her strongest, on tracks like the ethereal "Desert" and the confection "Flowers," Simon proves to be an original new voice. The Flower Book is deliciously rich and it'll be interesting to see where she goes now that she's ventured outside of the insular French music scene.

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