Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Chaleur Humaine

There are so many reasons to love Héloïse Letissier, aka Christine and the Queens... Let me count but some of the ways...

She has a glacial purity to her voice that is set off perfectly by her excellent dancing

She took French Elle to task for airbrushing her cover shot last year

She writes great, stylish, pop music with brains

Chaleur Humaine, an Anglo-French re-working of Letissier's 2014 French album of the same name, mixes endearingly glitchy electro with insanely catchy riffs & hooks and an understated pop intimacy that reflects her intelligence and creativity.

Opening track 'iT' is one of the angriest, yet danceable to, album openers I've ever heard. Talking about 'iT' to Dazed earlier this year, Letissier spoke of a sense of "wanting to have a dick just to have an easier life". She clarified this by adding:
Now I wouldn’t write “iT”. I’d rather stay a woman and fight, and try to control this male gaze by wearing unsexualised suits and speaking about my own desire without worrying about being desirable on someone else’s terms.  
The song reflects the sense of sexual fluidity that runs through Letissier's work in her persona of Christine, the name Christine and the Queens being a nod to the drag queens who looked after a fragile and heartbroken Letissier on a three week trip to London from her native France. She has variously described herself as bisexual and pansexual, but seems at pains to present a studied androgyny in her image as Christine. This is both intriguing and refreshing.

Sonically, the album ranges from the ferocity of 'iT' to the stripped down simplicity and poignancy of 'Night 52', via the almost Tom Tom Club esque 'Tilted' (think 'Genius of Love' rather than 'Wordy Rappinghood') and urban glitch of 'No Harm Is Done', a collaboration with Tunji Ige.

Despite parts of the album originally appearing in 2014, it feels like a very contemporary album, with a strong sense of urban unease reflected in it's conflicting sense of strength and fragility. Chaleur Humaine (which babel fish translates as 'Warmth') if there is any justice, should already be on it's way to becoming a modern pop classic (the album was released in the UK in March) and, I hope, a strong contender for album of the year.

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