Music video director turns singer/songwriter, a fitting transition from Woodkid who relies on the French National Orchestra and a visual-heavy imagination to explore a darker side of experimental pop.
An “epic record” in Woodkid’s own words no less, also describing The Golden Age as “dramatic, cinematic and orchestral”. It certainly is all the above, and it’s hard to appreciate this album without imagining his powerful music videos and the symbiosis between the visual and sound.
Growing up in Lyon, Lemoine qualified as an animator before his segway into directing. A speedy ascension saw him snapped up to direct music videos for the likes of Drake (Take Care) and Katy Perry (Teenage Dream). There was something more special about his collaboration with Lana Del Rey on last year’s Born To Die video. There’s a meeting of minds between the two that created magic, and there seems to be a slight Del Rey quality that has rubbed off in his music, a muse may she be?
30 year-old Yoann Lemoine unashamedly self-finances his videos, spending little elsewhere when it comes to marketing or promotion. It comes as no surprise then that Woodkid’s most famous video, for second single Run Boy Run, was nominated for a Grammy this year for Best Short Form Music Video. It was subsequently robbed by Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s We Found Love on the night.
The videos for his three singles to date are rich, dark and slick with high production values. Almost like mini-films, the most recent release, I Love You, is the most upbeat and probably the most commercially viable of the tracks. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s nominated for a Grammy in 2014, having just missed out on this year’s ceremony.
Sound-wise, this is a polished and grown-up record, with beautiful arrangements from the French National Orchestra who used almost every instrument available. Religion features throughout, woven like branches of thorns through the record, almost as frequently as topics of war, death and love punctuate tracks. Subdued piano, windy organ and the shriek of chime are paired with commanding base drum, snapping snare and trumpet.
A perfect example is Stabat Mater, a title taken from a well-known religious hymn loosely translated as sorrowful mother. A brass, commandeering riff and hymn-like structure conjures up images of praying for penance at the foot of a terrifying alter. Again, Lemoine is never far from his visual talents, succeeding in establishing bold images in the mind of the listener.
The power and purpose of religion and militia are offset by the weapons Lemoine clearly possesses - a strong depth of tone and confident yet vulnerable writing. His arsenal is cohesively displayed in the slower tracks like Boat Song and The Shore, but it’s the chanting, battle-cry choruses of Ghost Lights and Iron that really grip and linger. I initially thought Lemoine’s French accent would detract from the polished execution of the record, but it only serves to make it that little bit more interesting.
More consuming every time you listen, if this is still marked as the beginning of Woodkid’s career he’s certainly winning the war so far.