Usually when hearing a new album, it doesn’t take a genius to establish how old (or young) the participants are. From hearing ‘Lights’, the new album from France’s Exsonvaldes, one would guess they are a group musicians in their early twenties who have invested a lot of time in investigating their fathers’ 1980’s indie pop collection. Yet it’s surprising to learn that this quartet of dapper Parisians released their first material in 2002. There seemed to be a distinct New Order influence back then but they have developed from this moody upbringing to a much perkier proposition.
Indeed, Exsonvaldes now specialise in a wired kind of indie pop. Opener ‘Days’ runs along a well constructed framework of strident bass and percussion whilst ringing guitars and Simon Beaudoux’s throaty vocals are pushed to the forefront. It’s an infectious if somewhat lightweight beginning with a chorus that could become annoying after too many listens. The next track, ‘Let Go’, ups the ante and the urgency significantly with a moodier, intense atmosphere. The band also provide songs in their native language and there’s certainly plenty of Gallic charm and insouciance to the new wave of ‘L’Aérotrain’ or the Euro synths of ‘On N’a Rien Vu Venir’, even if ‘L’Inertie’ is a somewhat less essential ditty. The piano-led title track showcases a different side to the band and one which makes a case for them as a Parisian Ben Folds Five. Yet the most memorable and distinctive track is ‘Seahorses’ where the group, for once, jettison their usual incisive style for a mid-paced and rather touching song.
There are times when Exsonvaldes’ taste for instantly infectious tunes make some of their songs seem rather throwaway. At these times the band are selling themselves short as the better tracks here rank them as one of the more intelligent and idiosyncratic French acts around.
kIM NOVAk, New Order