Plaza Musique L'Amour et l'Occident

Through a soft focus lens of ’60s French pop, Plaza Musique adopts a calm and collected pop aesthetic, an aesthetic that’s as much about introspection as shaking hips. On the Montreal band’s debut, L’Amour et l’Occident, the four-piece mix dance-inspired sounds with those commonly heard in morose chamber pop, making for a rather eclectic listen. Produced by Echo Kitty singer Xavier Paradis, the record contains an impeccably clean sound that relies on unobtrusive synth melodies, blunted beats and gushing strings to carry it along. Also propelling the album are the icy voices of the band’s two vocalists, Maude Robillard and Guillaume Ethier, who sing half the songs in English and the others en Francais. But unfortunately, L’Amour et l’Occident is somewhat of a mixed bag. While the band do a great job on the more electronic-based compositions, such as "Sumatra” and "I Want to be Your Friend,” the same cannot be said of the stripped-down balladry and rock-centric tactics of the record’s second half. The several mellow Brain Wilson-type songs, such as "The Green Card” and "Tripolitesses,” meander and don’t reach the same level of confidence heard in the more dance-y numbers. Ultimately, the second leg of L’Amour et l’Occident pulls down the first, disrupting the flow of an otherwise upbeat album and making it a somewhat uneven affair. Nevertheless, the band show some promise for record number two. (Le Bonheur des Sons)