CD review: Lili Roquelin
By My Nguyen
Lili Roquelin asks on her album cover, “Will you hate the rest of the world or will you renew your life?” The title to her latest work, the question alone evokes a bewildering aura. Carrying many roles, singer-songwriter-producer Lili Roquelin definitely bequeaths your attention. As Roquelin sings about transcendence and change, she begins to cast a spell onto audiences, inviting them to stay and listen. The first track off her album does just that. In “Come and Hear My Story,” Roquelin produces a haunting, lulling effect with her eerie piano melodies and warbling voice. It sets the stage for the rest of the album which has the same dream-like and unexpected other-worldly feel.
When Roquelin left her home in a small town on the Riviera at a young age and came to the U.S. to pursue a musical career, she had set her sights in revealing her gift to the world. Here in, Will you hate the rest of the world or will you renew your life? Roquelin has produced an artful album filled with raw emotions that does just that. Drawn-out as well as sung with great restraint and with a cagey, understated feel, the songs off her album are melancholy with a twisted essence. There is a certain grace to each of these tracks as well that beckons listeners to her music box tinkle and thin vocals. Like in an eerie dark tale, magic is prevalent in these songs, bewitching listeners to its gothic and resolute themes.
Roquelin’s album includes a French cover of Danny Elfman’s “Sally’s Song” (Tim Burton/Nightmare before Christmas). It is an apt addition to the CD. The cover enables listeners to connect the themes of the famous song off the Tim Burton movie to the rest of the album. A song that is filled with longing and wistfulness, the track is sung by a doll who falls in love with an unattainable public figure. Perhaps the most famous song off the Tim Burton film, Roquelin elicits through her crystalline vocals the magical tone of the track.
Roquelin’s latest work is a paradoxical production. Her album is gloomy, but like the light underlining an overcast sky there is a luminescence to that gloom. An ethereal lightness is apparent in her style and songwriting but it is also obvious from the start that we are dealing with heavy and dark material. Her vocals are delicate, and yet there is nothing delicate about the subject matter, making this French import sometimes hard to swallow. Her music involves listeners to develop an acquired taste to her distant but emotive sound. Like anything rich and worth having in this world, the album involves the listener to attentively practice in the pursuing. It takes some careful listens, but Roquelin’s sound is definitely unique and hard to come by.