Une Sorcière Comme les Autres

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If the "cello Tori Amos" tag that Jorane was slapped with years ago were ever true, it sure doesn't work for Une Sorcière Comme les Autres, which finds her embracing French chanson while relegating the cello to an afterthought instead of a gimmick -- which is both good because she gets by on the strength of her songwriting and disappointing because that makes her one of many performers in a settled style. Cello features prominently throughout, and leads the music on the rockier songs, such as "Marilyn et John," but it never hogs the attention, sharing the mix with acoustic guitars, pianos, soft percussion, and -- most importantly -- semi-angelic vocals that are the true focal point of the album. Jorane's voice, graceful, tender, and mature, is basically flawless; she rarely goes for vocal acrobatics or high drama, but the reserved delivery fits the quiet vibe of the record, as well as the long tradition of French female singers from Edith Piaf to Zazie. Those who love this kind of music stand no chance against Une Sorcière Comme les Autres: between the singing and the touching drone of the cello, it's simply irresistible. For the rest, it may feel a bit too heavy on the mood and lyrics, not arrangements or, God forbid, explicit hooks -- which means the songs tend to blur together after a while. It also plays like a soundtrack to a melancholic French movie -- not far from stuff Yann Tiersen composed for Amelie, only more sparse and wistful. Whether a soundtrack is worth the attention without a movie to go with it, however, remains an open question.

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