Fans of Yann Tiersen’s score for the film Amélie will not be disappointed by this album, which finally gets a UK release some two years after appearing in shops in France. Much of Amélie was in fact reworked from Tiersen’s previous albums, and this is amongst the best of them.
L’Absente is the same sort of showcase for this versatile man’s many talents – including writing gorgeous songs and playing more instruments than any one person should be able to. Much of it will actually sound very familiar.
The charming opening track A Quai is one of the highlights of the Amélie soundtrack. Les Jours Tristes, an instrumental in the film, here takes on lyrics from guest vocalist Neil Hannon; the unmistakable sound of a good old-fashioned typewriter in Pas Si Simple also figures in La Lettre of Explication.
But there are plenty of new delights to discover. La Parade features the breathy voice of Lisa Germano in a heartbreaking song reminiscent of Hannon’s Promenade era of songwriting (it’s no surprise at all that he enjoys collaborating with Tiersen). Bagatelle’ switches into French lyrics and vocalist Dominique A for a song that’s less memorable.
The title track is a delicate and plaintive piano solo that combines Satie and Nyman influences to great effect, before breaking into irresistible Tiersen playfulness. Le Jour D’Avant is another typical piece of ultra-French whimsy including a trombone (one might have stumbled across the town band in Clochemerle…)
Less successful to my ear is Tiersen playing the viola. While there is no doubt of his skill, his compositions for solo strings are just too reminiscent of interminable practice exercises from my youth. But this is a minor quibble in an album of great variety, depth and charm. Someone should tell Lisa Germano how to pronounce the river Thames, though.