1. "relax sweetie while you’re still around"
The French Kicks have taken a step forward with The Trial of the Century, finding a new direction from their previous effort—a direction that is smooth, rolling, and extremely seductive. The music is upbeat, cool, and reserved—perfect for the cynical shoe-gazing hipster crowds who, as much as they might resist it, are going to have to learn to tap their feet again and give themselves up to the rhythm. Welcome to alt–Frank Sinatra.
The Trial of the Century opens with "One More Time," an ode that will quickly get under your skin, with confident, strong vocals and melodies that wash over and through you. This undercurrent of tight production, tight rhythm, and assured singing continues song after song after song. As the album moves along, you begin to notice harmonies throughout, adding quick and seamless changes, a bit of a doo-wop feel in places, and the ever-increasing nod to the new wave invasion of the early eighties.
"Oh Fine" relies on added echo, as if recorded in a warehouse, to give weight to its slinky, longing love poem. "The Falls" is a straightforward, building perfection of a song that just keeps coming, and it’s one of the first times you really begin to feel the band’s letting go. They retain a sublime tension during their songs, and you can feel your insides rising in time to the music, though they never quite let your wave crest—until "The Falls," by which time you are just begging them to.
Containing single after single, The Trial of the Century still manages to be a complete album that, by my reckoning, tells the tale of a relationship gone wrong. It’s like sitting by a train window and watching memories receding in the distance—with a soundtrack that’s both poignant and self-devouring. The songs are beautifully crafted, incorporating sweeping melodies both simple and layered to create music that haunts your mind and soothes your soul at the same time. You’re not alone—the French Kicks are crooning to you. Infectiously.
2. "we cross the wild"
Where to start with Inouk? I don’t even know how to correctly pronounce their name, but I’m sure it just rolls off the tongue if done correctly. Which is probably the closest I can get to describing their music. Drawing from early U2, Bowie, jam bands, sixties psychedelia, rock, alt, Appalachia, Dylan, and everything in between, No Danger defies description or classification. It just is. And it is good.
It starts off with the volume turned low, mutterings and fleeting thoughts wavering in and out, and then the chord hits and the volume jumps and you find yourself smack dab in the center of the nation of Inouk, swept along in their wake, attempting to keep your head above water, though it’s just as fun to sink into the wave. "What I Want," a rollicking song (like a perfect sunny day) shifts to "No Danger" without a pause, which uses the Spyhunter theme, sparingly, for effect under a rambling tune that ebbs and rises like the tide right before a storm. Which, of course, flows directly into "Elected," a haunting indictment of lost souls that is epic in its proclamation. It’s like someone’s mind has been unfurled on CD in all its glory—and with all its demons.
No Danger feels primal, instinctual, ambitious, and reaching. The songs speak at you, and your mind and soul has no option but to respond; it will pull something out of you. Then you hit "Search for the Bees," which is an absolutely heart-wrenching song—you know this guy is desperately looking and just isn’t finding what he needs ("spend my life here running round"), and his commanding voice rips you apart, faltering and attempting to fly at the same time. "Somewhere in France," a bittersweet meander down memory lane, is a song that you just don’t want to end.
Inouk’s sound is jerky, melodic, and so schizophrenic that it is logical; catchy, familiar, yet utterly unique; intense, sweet, and impossible to tear yourself away from; a jarring and beautiful assault on your ears and emotions. You almost don’t care what to call it, because the music is so achingly honest it leaks out of your speakers like warm honey, glistening and alive. These are not just songs. They are expressions of something deeper, and they unmistakably come across at that level. They are citizens of Inouk—mature, developed, evolved, and free.
Grant Moser is an art writer and frequent contributing writer for the Brooklyn Rail.