Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gabrielle Papillon: "Little Bug" (album review)

Gabrielle Papillon is returning with her fourth album, the forthcoming Little Bug (out September 25th).  This is the follow-up to the melodic folk of her last album, The Currency of Poetry, a hit with me last year.

The singer-songwriter, who splits her time between Halifax and Montreal, has greatly expanded her sound on the Daniel Ledwell-produced record.  That's obvious from the album opener "Go Into the Night".  With slick production and a fuller sound it's a much more dramatic feel than we're used to from Papillon.  It actually feels a tad unnatural and uncomfortable.

The production is toned down on subsequent tracks, blending in with the existing melodies and complementing them.  A sweeping arrangement transforms "Judah On His Knees" into a take-notice number.

What sets Papillon apart from most folk musicians is her ability to keep that notoriously dull genre interesting.  An enthusiastically plucked banjo makes "Oh My Favorite" a highlight.  The title track and the whistle-adorned "Moonless Night" move at a clip uncharacteristic for folk music, with an edge reminiscent of Scottish singer Amy MacDonald.

You'll recognize "In the Pines", also known as "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" which is how it was known in the Nirvana version.  Papillon's arrangement is a minimal stomp percussion and vocal harmony which gives it a slight Tom Waits flavour.

Of course, nobody's perfect.  The slow as molasses sombre "He Knows" is an easy-to-skip track.

When she hits the extreme boundaries of her comfort zone, Papillon comes up short.  However, without pushing those boundaries she wouldn't uncover some of the fertile territory in between.

Gabrielle Papillon plays The Piston in Toronto on September 27th.

Best tracks: "In the Pines", "Oh My Favorite"

Track listing for Little Bug:
  • Go Into the Night
  • Oh My Favorite
  • Turn Left
  • Little Bug
  • Concrete of the City
  • Coccinelle
  • Moonless Night
  • He Knows
  • Judah On His Knees
  • In the Pines
  • I Am Sold

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