Joakim came into my existence in 2008 through a ridiculous, quirky and addictive trip of a remix for Late of the Pier. Seven minutes long, it was an ambitious track with a subversive disco beat mixed in with razor guitars and a completely disjointed Sam Eastgate. Imagine the song tossed into a kaleidoscopic blender dancing with the toaster from Ghostbusters on the dance floor from Saturday Night Fever. Then you’ve got “The Bears are Coming” remix from Joakim. Fast forward to 2011 and the talented Frenchman has Nothing Gold out, a herald to S.E. Hinton’s famous quote, “Nothing gold can stay.”
Nothing Gold follows that mantra, meaning it’s far away from the tweaks and unexpected hairpin curves I had initially expected. Joakim Bouaziz, instead, turns his shades on pop melodies instead of how far you can deconstruct a song for it to still be coherent. It’s a grand choque initially, but hearing the wood block percussion and synth swirl of “Forever Young” during the calm of an early autumn evening assuaged initial disappointments. The muffled bass line as he sings over, “You used to be young. Where do you belong?” slightly juxtapose the 80s Miami keys and constant drive of percussion. Catchiness before “Fight Club” dips you back. “Fight Club” attempts a New Wave swagger, yet the epic, heavy notes between verses that feel like a Tron transition cut don’t seem to align quite right with the very quiet, plateau vocals.
The album overall feels understated or intentionally stunted. The concept of fleeting youth, love and the temporal seem to weigh heavily on the vocals than the music, which sometimes don’t match up. However musically, Joakim can get clever. On “Nothing Gold,” it’s piano becomes discordant and dark adds a subtle contrast to the otherwise muted melodies mirroring the fact that “nothing gold can stay.” Meanwhile “Paranoid” succeeds in creating a vertigo of sorts, surrounding you in a disturbing rotation of beats that suffocates like a Rothko. “Piano Magic” is that electronic breath that is much needed on this album, prepping you for the retro-pop of “Labyrinth.” The track is what could have made Nothing Gold better, a consistent pop melody that is “what you see is what you get” when you put in Joakim. It starts slow, incorporates a slight beat to trigger those dance synapses, and caps off with a smooth vocal ascent.
Nothing Gold feels stuck between Basque balearic, disco and 80s electronic. It’s a mature and reflective album that distances itself from the typical French sound, preferring to house itself up and lounge the night away. It’s that 35 mph slow dance cruise that could use more unexpected bumps, or better defined vocals.