Way back in January, I had the chance to email back and forth with Charlotte Savary and Philippe Chevallier about their follow-up to 2008’s De Fil en aiguille. Felipecha became a pleasant surprise after a bit of searching into what Wax Tailor‘s songstress was up to in a pause between his releases. Rooted in variété française, we experienced Charlotte singing only in French while Philippe would lend a flurry of guitar over what we’d consider traditional French music, dabbling into Spanish with “Juanitita.” What came out of the interview was a series of hints and breadcrumbs that pulled back the velvet curtains on the follow-up Les Lignes de fuite (Vanishing Lines).
With an ascending gust of violin strings over a bed of leisurely struck drums, “Rien” starts the sophomore release with a lushness that is revealed piece by piece. Christelle Lassort’s strings slip backstage as Philippe’s muted guitar allows the bass lift Charlotte’s voice upwards, echoing as if bouncing off dimly lit walls of a forgotten jazz club. The chorus itself, previously mentioned as her most anticipated song to play on stage, is one simple syllable. It’s a lovely one at that, which is only enhanced by the surprisingly lush recording that gives the album so many auditory nooks and corners to sneak sounds into.
“L’exil” is a saunter led by, surprisingly, a drum machine and Chevallier until Savary enters with a hauntingly sweet pop chorus. It emphasizes the more traditional French music a non-native would expect with its straightforward, poetic lyrical delivery blended with loose, swing-influenced guitar. “A pile du face”, later on in the album, retakes this style with a dusty country feel, as if Philippe was channeling a spaghetti western. The guitar flashes in and out, leaving little trails as Charlotte and Philippe’s dual vocals bounce leisurely along.
The one thing that surprises is that Felipecha stretches away from variété française or a traditional French sound. “L’etincelle” is straight up driving rock, which confuses for a second until the song decelerates just enough for Charlotte to sneak in her chorus. Then they’re off again. “London Shopping” is the other standout, and general consensus has been that it’s just adorable pop. With Philippe singing in English for the first time, and Charlotte handling French, the bilingual track is catchy with its sneaky twang to the guitar over a barely noticeable music box.
Compared to De Fil en aiguille, the latest Felipecha is a far more gorgeous recording. The swells and secret nooks are revealed as, you could say, switching from a cassette to vinyl. For example, “Juanitita” pushed the vocals to the front in suppressing the guitar to the point it was audible, but lacked a certain life. It is the kind of recording you’d sink yourself into an enveloping couch, close your eyes and let yourself be transported into an expansive, luxuriant musical landscape where even winter (“L’hiver”) thaws to Savary’s voice and Chevallier’s guitar.