Francesca Blanchard is not the most well-known name in the music industry today. But the French-born singer-songwriter is no stranger to the music industry. She has been writing music ever since her childhood. And in 2011, she released her very first recording, Songs on an Ovation. The record, a six-song EP, was released via Emote Records. Now a little more than four years after its release Blanchard will finally release her debut full-length studio recording for American audiences. The aptly titled Deux Visions will be released Friday, October 2nd via Vis-a-vis. Deux Visions is such an aptly titled record because Blanchard presents both her French and American roots throughout the course of the album’s twelve total songs. She sings half of those songs in English and the other half in French. In doing so she is able to reach not just her French-speaking listeners but her American listeners, too. This is just one element of the album worth noting. In direct correlation to her dual vocal approach, the lyrics to each of her songs have been printed in the album’s companion booklet side by side in both French and English, too. Not only does this mean that she will reach both audiences even more but that she will also guarantee keeping her listeners engaged. She and her label made sure to not leave out anyone. And being that this record is her debut full-length recording that is an especially good choice. Having noted her dual approach to her debut album, the next logical element to examine in this record is the combined musical and lyrical content of her album in whole. That material in question is notable because it stands out from so much music from her more well-known pop counterparts. It stands out because it switches seemingly from song to song. And even the lyrical content of each of the album’s songs boasts its own depth in comparison to that of other female artists. The combination of that standout musical and lyrical content set alongside the previously noted albums leads Deux Visions to prove itself one more of the year’s best new world music albums.
The official release date of Francesca Blanchard’s debut album Deux Visions is still roughly five weeks out at the time of this review. Even being so far out from its release it can still be said of her new album that it is one of the best of this year’s new world music field. It proves this in more ways than can be noted in one sitting. So this critic will focus on just a few ways in which it proves itself so impressive beginning with her performance of the album’s twelve total songs. Blanchard, who is French by birth but currently lives in Vermont, splits the album’s tracks right down the middle, singing half of the songs in French and half in English. She is not the only bi-lingual artist to use this approach. Colombian pop star Shakira uses a similar approach as do the men of Los Lonely Boys, kindie rock act Future Hits and others. While the approach that she takes is not exactly new, it does not make it any less important. That is because as with the albums released by the previous artists and acts, it shows an attention to detail so as to not alienate one listener base or another. What’s more, some of the aforementioned acts (and others) don’t always balance the linguistic approach on their albums as much as she has here. In many cases, the foreign language performances seem to take precedence over the English-language tracks. Though, it can be said that Future Hits come close as they go through their album Today is Forever first in Spanish and then repeat each song in English. While Blanchard’s approach isn’t quite at that level, the equal balance of French and English performances rather than a random slathering of French and English presentations ensures that audiences of both English and French backgrounds will be able to equally enjoy her new album so to speak. That is a solid foundation for her debut record. And it is just one level of that foundation, too. The presentation of the album’s songs both in English and French within the album’s booklet strengthens that foundation even more.
Francesca Blanchard’s balanced, dual-language approach on her debut album Deux Visions makes for a solid foundation for this first effort. It is not the only element that allows this album to sit so strongly, either. Each of the album’s songs are printed both in English and French in the album’s companion booklet. This means for French audiences whose abilities with English might not be so strong will still be able to enjoy it just as much as those English-speaking listeners whose abilities with French are just as weak. Some might read this and ask why this would be so important. The answer here is simple. It is important because especially today, not every group, band, or act includes lyrics with their albums. That can easily lead to misinterpretation of lyrics in many cases. In the case of a foreign language record, not having lyrics greatly diminishes the interest that those not familiar with the album’s linguistic approach might have in the album. What’s more even those albums that do include lyrics are not always guaranteed to include translated lyrics for those not fluent with the featured artist’s/group’s/band’s language. It does not necessarily have to mean English, either. It can be any language. In the case of this album it just so happens that Blanchard has seen to it along with Vis-a-vis that the songs’ lyrics were printed in both French and English. This means that those English audiences not familiar the French language will be able to understand the lyrics to each song just as much as French audiences not familiar with English. What this means is that Blanchard’s French and English audiences alike will be able to take in her debut album in whole without worrying about missing out on any of it. Simply put, everybody is at the same level in listening to this record as a result. This takes the foundation established by Blanchard in her performances that much stronger. It is not the last element of the album’s success, either. The overall musical and lyrical content of Blanchard’s album sits atop the foundation set by her approach to the album’s songs and their presentation both on record and in writing in two languages.
Both Blanchard’s dual-language approach to her new album both on record and in writing do plenty to make it an impressive first effort from the talented, young artist. For all of their importance to the overall structure of this record, the actual content of the album in regards to its musical and lyrical content is just as important to its whole. In regards to both elements, Blanchard manages quite well to stand out from so many of her more well-known counterparts. Listening to the album’s musical content, the first comparison that this critic came up with was to Mazzy Star. That is at least in songs such as ‘Mon Ange,’ and ‘Rame.’ At other points, listeners can hear hints of Vanessa Carlton (at least in her vocal delivery style), Norah Jones (both vocally and stylistically) and others. The combination of such comparisons in regards to both Blanchard’s own vocal delivery style and the overall stylistic approach to her album’s songs shows its ability to hold its own against said artists. The same can be said of the album’s lyrical content. Each of the songs present lyrical content that can be best described as being deeply personal and just as moving. ‘Rame,’ the album’s opener is just one example of how the album’s lyrical content helps the album to hold its own both in the underground realm and against more well-known mainstream acts. Blanchard presents a subject that is in a very dark place. Yet being in such a dark place, her subject still holds out hope, singing that “All is not lost/No/All is not lost. In the case of this song, Blanchard uses the metaphor of a person out at sea in a sinking boat. Despite the situation looking hopeless, her subject receives a sign of hope; a sign that everything will be okay. It is definitely an interesting approach to the topic of maintaining hope and even a partially optimistic outlook on things in those dark times. ‘Le Blues’ is another good example of how the record’s lyrical content helps it to stand out. Blanchard writes in this song of how the blues make her happy. What is interesting about this is that she is not necessarily referring directly to the blues that many might think. She refers seemingly to the different shades of blue in the world as well as the blues as a musical style. The gentle tones of the song’s piano line and the song’s overall somewhat jazzy style accent those lyrics so well. The combination of her play on words and the song’s musical content makes this song yet another prime example of why Deux Visions lives up to its title. ‘Papa…Pere’ is one more example of how the lyrical content of Deux Visions makes it such an original, standout recording for Blanchard. This deeply emotional piece presents Blanchard’s subject apparently singing to her father. It is inferred as she sings, “I looked up at the sky/And I said your name/Papa…Father/Where are you/And that’s when I saw you/Your star/Dancing across the sky/Flying over the atmosphere’s horizon/And just like that you heard me/And you came to me/Papa.” This is just one small portion of the song’s lyrical content. But it is a strong example of why this song helps to make the album in whole stand out. Those lyrics (and the rest of the song’s lyrics) alongside its gentle musical backing will move to tears every person that hears it. Any person that is not so moved is either heartless or not human. It is just one more example of how the combination of Deux Visions’ lyrical and musical content together serves to make it a standout recording both against music produced by Blanchard’s more well-known counterparts and for herself. Together with the presentation of its songs in both French and English both musically and on paper, all three elements show without argument why Deux Visions is a solid start for Blanchard and why it is also one of the best of this year’s new world music records.
Deux Visions is an impressive first full-length effort from Francesca Blanchard. The twelve-song record presents its songs both in French and English both on record and in print. The combined musical and lyrical content of the album’s songs add even more to the album’s benefit. All three elements combined, they prove that this record is just as enjoyable for audiences as those released by her more well-known counterparts in the mainstream pop and rock worlds. Being such a strong effort, the album in whole also goes to show that it is without argument one of the best of this year’s new World Music records so far. It will be available Friday, October 2nd and can be ordered direct via Blanchard’s official bandcamp website at http://francescablanchard.bandcamp.com/. It can also be pre-ordered via that website now. More information on Deux Visions is available online now along with all of Blanchard’s latest news at:
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