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1973 - Bye Bye Cellphone

This is a superb debut LP from a bunch of relative unknowns.

1973, a trio of young Parisians, seems to break away from the electronic genres that have become synonymous with their country’s indie scene in their long-time-coming debut album ‘Bye Bye Cellphone’. Helped by multi-instrumentalists Thibaut Barbillon and Jérôme Plasseraud, 1973’s singer Nicolas Frank introduces us to a much more organic and folksy sound than the synth-heavy pop (Phoenix, Daft Punk, Air, M83, etc.) that brought his French peers international recognition and relative success, without losing that humiliating quality they all possess: the common ability to write better songs in their second language than most of our native speakers can manage.

The songs are consistently good, but the album is not without its clear standouts.

With its staccato piano and Nicolas’ handsome voice (whose inflections draw an obvious comparison to that of Phoenix singer Thomas Mars) ‘Vegas’ is a tribute to America’s least genuine place. “Promises fade, Las Vegas baby” rolls sadly off the tongue in a piece that refers to the Nevada slot-machine city as “an American dream” - which, if we’ve learnt one thing from ‘Fight Club’ or ‘American Beauty’, is just one big dystopian clusterfuck. The band claim they are keen on keeping their lyrical style intelligent and make a conscious effort to avoid cheesy clichés that would throw them into the ever grey area of ‘easy-listening’. This statement is certainly cemented in the beautiful yet melancholy opener.

‘Simple Song (For A Complicated Girl)’ was the lead track from the band’s 2009 EP - and well deserving of its status as their first real single – radio-friendly production, indie-kid friendly arrangements and friendly-friendly banjo (have you ever heard a sad banjo?). The backing vocals might as well read “we’re M83!”; the whispery ‘ahh’s could easily be samples from half a dozen of Anthony Gonzales’ more melodramatic releases – yes, we’re looking at you ‘Teen Angst’.

‘Late Night Call’ is a slow burning, lighter-in-the-air ballad that sounds, bizarrely, like something the now defunct Easyworld would have written. Two minutes into the song, everything kicks in before cutting out for Nicolas’ moving finale: “firefly, I wish you’ve/finally found home/finally found home”. In its more restrained moments, Nicolas’ voice takes on a whispery Iron & Wine-like style, enhanced by beautiful harmonies as demonstrated by the stunning ‘We Are Nowhere’.

This is a superb debut LP from a bunch of relative unknowns – there is no song on here worth skipping and, as is the case with much of music’s greatest albums, your favourite track can change from day to day. On behalf of this and every other country’s population who can barely understand the existence of other languages that, you know, aren’t English, we salute 1973 and their equally talented friends in Versailles. Très bon, garçons!

Tags: 1973, Reviews, Album Reviews

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