“The heart regenerates like the tail of lizards” (“Le cœur se régénère comme la queue des lézards”). Luciani might not sound like a French name and even less Gallic is having a Sicilian expatriate grandfather, but the Marseille-born Clara Luciani (who lacks the ability to speak Italian) – has released an album that is delightfully French in its vocal style, language choice, mysterious allure and themes of love and emerging victorious from the cesspit of grief. Fans of Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christine and The Queens and Emilie Simon will find much to amour on Luciani’s solo inauguration.
The courageously titled Sainte Victoire named after a mountain ridge in the south of France – ends with a typical attribute of a French record, a passionate thick- accented monologue. Clara Luciani speaks about the physical scarring and wounds of anguish but positively notifies that with any injury the body and mind can recover.
Paraphrased from French, she sings “The blood resumes its work, returns to fight against the temples, to irrigate the organs“. This speech could have been at the beginning of Sainte Victoire, as it introduces Clara Luciani’s reason for making music away from her former band La Femme: the desperate need to express the power of healing from lovesickness and other discouraging life events to the world.
Although much of the album is in the context of love,Clara is most interesting lyrically on ‘La Grenade’ and ‘Drôle dépoque’ and (Strange Era), two songs that express the French musician’s frustration with another hindrance; complying to female stereotypes as an adult when she spent much of her youth acting like a tomboy.
On ‘La Grenade’ she comments on the female gender’s acceptable walking stance, body shape and dress code. Whilst on ‘Drôle dépoque’ she targets men who think the opposite gender are automatically weak and unskilled, stating that just like a man she can fight, bite and explode like a grenade. The song is a reaction to experiences with gig technicians who without hesitation presume she can’t set up a microphone.
Luciani often wonders why life just can’t just be straightforward. It’s something she also questions with love too on ‘Comme Toi(Like You)’, asking why romantic compatibility is so complex when she and her love interests both have 2 arms and 2 legs. She compares this over-complication to the simple nature of flowers on ‘Les Fleurs’: “I think of flowers. Who are perfect. And who have no other role than to be.”
Clara Luciani was taught the electric guitar by her father at age 11 and is from a punk background (La Femme and a college band), so despite wishing to sing with clarity about her life, she keeps a gritty rock magma erupting behind the balladry to merge her two styles.
Even though ‘La Grenade’ contains the shiny synths of Pet Shop Boys‘ ‘It’s A Sin‘, it’s the consistent bass that directs the track along its path. Saxophone-inclusive tracks ‘Eddy’ (which has hints of Air) and ‘Les Fleurs’ (which has the piano hook of Dario G‘s 1997 dance anthem ‘Sunchyme’) both benefit from a funky bass that give a dusty edge.
One of the most exciting moments on Sainte Victoire is her wonderful cover of Metronomy‘s ‘The Bay’ (‘La Baie’), containing disco swirls and a Nile Rodgers guitar that re-imagines it as a floor-filling hit from the 1970s. Unlike the original song, Luciani admitted in an interview that she imagines this Bay to be an exotic place where people live naked whilst eating fruit. Listening to her debut, it’s easy to buy into Clara Luciani’s vision of a simple life.
Sainte Victoire is out now on Initial Artist Services.