If Not The Best kicks off proceedings with a Sondre Lerche-like pop-jazz tune, Boris Paillard’s vocal and guitar taking it in turns to take centre stage, whilst he has surrounded himself with a wealth of fantastic instrumentation giving the relatively simple song a rich, cinematic quality.
Paillard refers to this release as a ‘travel album’, recorded during a winter exile in the Carribean and while touring the US. Whilst, perhaps the urban landscape of Portland, Oregon may have rubbed off on the opener the next three tracks were recorded in Lamentin and Guadeloupe, and, as the lively guitar and chirpy horn sections seem to suggest, the islands may have had an impact.
Paillard’s voice sneaks in here and there, a delightfully reedy sneer in amongst the exotic instrumentation, whilst Talia Post provides sweet, cartoonish backing vocals. ‘I’ll be out of my face somewhere near Hoboken, because it sounds like a place where my heart should be broken’ wails Paillard before the tune turns into an optimistic little musical mantra, Post’s vocals appear dreamily on the horizon that a mirage of hope.
Undoubtedly there are shades of Beirut, a similarly nomadic and collaborative musician, though things go oddly classic rock once Virgile Sellem’s electric guitar comes striding in.
Next To Nothing has a travelling, wide-eyed vibe and arch lyrics, shades of Canadian singer-songwriter Julian Carax on the lucid verses. After each verse we drift off into sunny, weary instrumental asides, each with its own flavour and energy and every time we return to Paillard he seems to be a little slurrier, an angry undertone to his delivery. Whilst the song ends with a chirrup, a little bright horn finale that has echoes of Birmingham wonders Misty’s Big Adventure.
There’s something quite tongue-in-cheek, yet honest, to the title of More Of The Same, whilst it does bare similarities to the previous two tracks, but it does feature one of Paillard’s most poignant and effecting lyrics almost spluttered out flippantly; ‘There’s still time to give up your dreams before they get ahold of your heart.’ It moves from its lively Santana-styled beginnings into a big, cheery sunshine finale as Paillard suggests ‘Now life has to cut me some serious slack.’
Where Is My Miracle was recorded in Los Angeles, around the two and a half minute mark its languid beginnings shift up a gear and transform into a glorious Age Of Aquarius style number, a chorus of vocals joining Paillard, it’s an exhilirating moment that slaps a smile on your face, so its a bit of a shame that it slumps so easily into more shuffling territory after this rush of blood.
You spend the rest of the track waiting for a return, but for the most part the rest of the track has more of an American alt-country influence, Paillard sharing vocals with Cate Bennett.
There’s a suitably eerie quality to the beginning of The End Of Me, quivering violins, before the folk jazzy song kicks in. This track was recorded in Toronto with some of Paillard’s old friends at the end of his travels, and it has a certain homecoming finality to it all, its choruses filled with vocals are warm and comforting in sound if not lyrically. It’s also the most contentedly ponderous track on the record, almost like three songs montaged together, and whilst it’s never particularly arduous there is a sense of overindulgence around the six minute mark.
Fortunately things come back to life with There Is No Next Time, breathless vocals scattershot over an insistent punctuated horn section, ‘Enjoy it while it’s here cause your years are made of seconds’ sings Paillard cheekily referencing the title of his previous (really brilliant) record.
It’s fourteen note melody jabs wonderfully at your ears, passed around the instruments like a joint, before a woozy finale has explosive howls of vocals bringing everything to a heady climax.
Closing track I Became Who You Thought I Was is the most ‘simplistic’ sounding on the record, a spry if melancholy end to the record which at times has a Paul Simon feel to it before things wind down on sombre, woah-ing vocals.
Unlike his previous record – Years Are Made Of Seconds – there’s more of a centre to this record, it feels all wrapped around a notion, but is more of an album of highlights than consistent peaks and so is an erratic and unsteady listen, occasionally catching the attention rather than holding it. But still, when it works it’s brilliant, and those moments will keep you coming back.
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