Published Feb 17, 2021In the depths of winter, it's not easy to find reminders of summertime. In a pandemic, it can be even harder to even be able to actually hope for better, warmer days to come. This is where Vanille, the solo project of Montreal's Rachel Leblanc, comes in. Her debut album, Soleil '96, will warm up anyone's home and heart during uncertain times.
Rachel Leblanc's talent hasn't gone unnoticed in Quebec. Her first EP, the bilingual My Grandfather Thinks I'm Going to Hell, garnered her attention as an artist to watch upon its release in 2017. Soleil '96 delivers on that promise, as Leblanc transitions from garage rock influences to sunny psych and dream pop sounds that suit her voice perfectly.
Entirely in French, Soleil '96 opens up with the very dreamy "Carte du Ciel," a dream pop ballad that sounds like a smooth '70s track brought to life by Leblanc's honeyed voice. Her vocals are bewitching, and breathes life to the melancholy of each song. Her lyrics openly address her suburban sadness, illustrating her emotions and experiences through a slow tempo driven by mellow drums and guitars that pull the listener through a haze.
Leblanc is well-matched by her producer, Emmanuel Éthier, formerly of Chocolat and producer to fellow Francophone breakouts P'tit Belliveau and Corridor. Every element of the album complements her voice without taking away from her performances. Her songs are well coordinated, with each one melting into the other, creating a pleasant, seamless experience. Leblanc is in control on every single track. In "L'été bleu," she sings to a long-lost love about their summertime romance, telling them it wasn't just a dream. In standout track "Solstice," Leblanc's talent is raw, pure, and vulnerable. She gives us access to her heartbreak through summery metaphors. All of Leblanc's musical ability shines through this powerful track that embodies the energy of the entire album.
Soleil '96 firmly puts Leblanc and Vanille on the map. With this strong debut, she affirms her reputation as a bright sign of the future of Canadian and Francophone music. Soleil '96 is everything we wish for the summer to bring. It makes us hope for warmer days, picnics in the park with friends while sipping on white wine and eating pizza with sour candies. Soleil '96 is the embodiment of better days ahead, something Vanille understands we all desperately need right now. (Bonbonbon)