Emilie Simon | The Flower Book (Milan)

cd_simonThis is an astonishingly good record that provides an easy answer to the question, "When does pop music rise to the level of art?"






Talk about one hell of a musical bouquet! Emilie Simon, the French musician known for doing part of the score to March of the Penguins, has released her first U.S. album, The Flower Book, and redefined the parameters of female-driven electropop in the process. This is an astonishingly good record that provides an easy answer to the question, "When does pop music rise to the level of art?" When it's filled with dazzling arrangements, effortless hooks and a thoroughly listenable flow from start to finish, that's when.

Through the course of these 15 lush, texturally fascinating songs, Simon seduces the listener with her sweetly sensual vocals, cutting-edge techno rhythms always firmly anchored to the given mood, and layers of atmosphere created by always-fresh arrangements. A sure sign that the listener is in for a sonic adventure is the memorably sexy, original cover of the Stooges classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Hearing Simon's kittenish voice purr, "In my room I want you here/ Now we're gonna be face to face/ I'm gonna lay right down in my favorite place" as rhythmically gripping synths groove behind her, makes you forget that some guy named Iggy once had something to do with this song. It's killer!

Five songs are sung in French, and these are also undeniably seductive, especially "Dame do Lotus" with its smokin' hot Goldfrapp-like groove, and the artsy, skin-prickling thumper "Rose hybride de the." Some of the arrangements here, honestly, are revelatory—and no review can really do them justice. One of the many highlights is "Flowers," a beguiling bit of chamber pop about a girl who wants to do something special for a new guy: "I want to buy you flowers/ It's such a shame you're a boy/ But when you are not a girl/ Nobody buys you flowers/ Now I'm standing in the shop/ I must confess I wonder/ If you will like my flowers." Simon's vocals here are transcendent, and in its quirky little way, this may be one of the most romantic songs of the modern age.

"In the Lake" is almost too eccentric to even describe; it's spookily brilliant but uncategorizable. And the touching "My Old Friend" begins as a deceptively simple piano ballad, but once the tribal percussion and weirdly muted strings enter the mix, you realize that Simon's boundless musical imagination compels her to make every song just a little different. Well, a lot different, actually. For there is almost nothing like this album out there right now, especially in America.

"I don't need to be romantic/ I just have to be me," Simon sings on the stirring, heartfelt closer "To the dancers in the rain." But of course, she is a romantic, and this album is brimming with passion of all sorts, especially Simon's passion for the joy and exuberance of making creative, personal music. The Flower Book is nothing less than a landmark of riveting, multi-cultural electropop, one in which breathtaking studio wizardry and gleeful self-expression walk hand in hand through a sonic garden. And that, my friends, is not just a rose by any other name. A | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Anja Garbarek, Björk, Goldfrapp

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