The backstory of Lou Doillon is a fascinating one: her acting career began at age 5 with an appearance in Kung Fu Master and her modelling career started at 16, when she became ambassador for Givenchy. Doillon’s mother is the legendary singer Jane Birkin (her father being film director Jacques Doillon) which also makes her the half-sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg. Add to this Doillon’s work in the theatre and visual arts and it’s not hard to see why she didn’t come to music until relatively late, actually well into her twenties.
Soliloquy is Doillon’s third album, following 2012’s Places (which won her a gong at the French music awards Victoires de la Musique) and 2016’s gold-selling Lay Low. The record’s opener, ‘Brother’ immediately reveals Doillon’s distinctive tone, quite an earthy sound and a million miles from sister Charlotte. An understated opening soon gives way to a faster, string led arrangement which builds the drama as it goes and is an instant hook into the record.
‘The Joke’ follows and is a lot more playful; it could even be a lost Jacques Brel song – it’s not difficult to imagine Scott Walker giving it a go. And the voice – it’s fair to say it’s something of an acquired taste, but it soon makes absolute sense with the music and lyrics here. ‘All These Nights’ comes as a complete contrast, understated bass and piano turning unexpectedly to a heartbreakingly melancholic synthscape. It’s a stunning track and probably Soliloquy‘s finest moment.
The album’s differing sounds and styles can partly be put down to Doillon sharing production duties with four others, including Cat Power, who joins for a duet on the sweetly country-tinged ‘It’s You’, while the first single from the set is ‘Burn’ which probably is the most obviously commercial track here, a delicious riff running through the spine of the song that recalls Badly Drawn Boy‘s ‘Road Movie’, specifically the version he recorded with Doves.
‘Flirt’, musically, is a little bit Marika Hackman, which is a great compliment coming from this writer, though the voice is all Doillon. The way that the album travels around different styles keeps it really interesting and, actually, quite an addictive listen. It pulls off the not inconsiderable trick of still sounding like a cohesive album, though, despite the style changes throughout.
‘Widows’ is apparently inspired by American poet Dorothy Parker and is a dramatic and slightly unsettling listen, while closing track ‘Snowed In’ has chiming, reverbed guitars and a gently undulating beat, slowly building to a conclusion that gives the impression of unfinished business.
Soliloquy is a fascinating listen and the work of a performer who has made the most of her multi-faceted artistic endeavours and brought a real character and charm to the table.
Soliloquy is out now on Wrasse Records