The Best Albums of 2015, #19

band0119. Izia, La Vague (Maison Barclay)

One of my favourite things to do when I’m in other countries is to head to a record store and check out the national bestsellers. It’s always a good way to immerse yourself in whatever country you’re visiting, to get a good idea of what each nation’s zeitgeist is like at that moment. There’s always plenty to discover, music that’s ignored by the American-influenced, anglocentric music machine that dominates the globe, and which we have no idea exists in North America. This past spring my flat in Paris was close to the biggest FNAC store in the city, so as I always do I spent some time poking around the French charts section, taking note of the new releases. I sampled several, none of which stuck, but then I discovered the new album by 25 year-old singer-songwriter Izïa Higelin. It immediately struck a chord, so to speak, a sleekly  produced blend of pop, rock, alternative, R&B, and electronic that somehow avoids with great dexterity all the traps that await an album so stylistically sprawling: too much bombast, too much saccharine, lack of focus, overkill. Instead, this is a very crisp little record that clocks in at 32 minutes, never for a second overstepping. Its confidence reminds me of another similar album whose crossover appeal wowed me two decades ago, Texas’s White on Blonde, how it tackles and blends numerous genres with style and grace. I listened to this album on Spotify a lot during that stay in Paris, and the album — which of course I bought as a memento — stuck with me the entire year. And the more I delved into it, the more revealing it turned out to be, with the title track (translated as “the wave”) proving to be especially revelatory:

Je suis la vague qui te ramène sur les récifs quand tu te perds
Je suis le soleil qui te brûle quand tu reviens nu sur les dunes
Je suis la vague qui te ramène

I am the wave that brings you back on the reefs when you get lost
I am the sun that burns you when you come back naked on the dunes
I am the wave that brings you back

(Spotify) (YouTube)