19 October 2020-
Frenchman Woodkid burst on the scene quite announced in 2011. His debut album then catapulted him further into French Touch stardom, after which he decided to retire... until now.
Woodkid is a strange cat. Before seemingly appearing from nowhere onto the music scene, the man was actually a noted music video director — which obviously explains his impeccable videos and artwork across the board. Interestingly and rather uncharacteristically, though, Lemoine (his real name) ultimately decided to take the plunge into music, an area which he had always been passionate about and had so far worked in without quite showing anyone. The result was 2011’s Iron EP, with a bona fide horns riff and a video featuring supermodel Agyness Deyn which put him on the map in a matter of days/weeks.
Then came 2013’s debut The Golden Age, which beautifully expanded on the artist’s universe — with success to match: another two singles followed, “Run boy run” and “I love you”, which performed almost as well as “Iron”. Meanwhile, Woodkid’s persona and style became ubiquitous, and the one-album wonder, somewhat unwillingly, became the new face of French Touch, along with the Daft Punks and Phoenixes of this world. And then he quit: soon after album release, he mysteriously claimed that he would retire from music — indefinitely. And he kept his word for a number of years, until a few EP’s and collaborations put him back on the map, most notably 2016’s Ellis with none other than keyboard wunderkind Nils Frahm.
But these could still be considered episodic side projects. Late last year, Woodkid finally went all in, announcing a new full-on musical project in the coming year — this year. A couple singles showed up starting in April, until the release of S16, the man’s second LP, a few days ago. And, let it be said, the time spent in-between albums shows: in his sophomore effort, Lemoine shows a wealth and depth that were still missing in his youthful musings, elaborating on his sound while still very much sounding like himself. Take “Goliath”, S16’s first single: it masterfully reinvents the things we have come to know and love about the artist, including an overall dark atmosphere, highly mechanical sounds (actually, significantly more so now) and a somewhat soft albeit textured voice which comes on top of everything to give that final touch…
A couple of key differences come with this new work, though:
- The sheer ambition of Woodkid’s musical output has obviously grown, now including a wealth of sounds and instruments, both real and computerized, which together form incredibly rich tracks;
- Lemoine is noticeably more daring this time around: for one, he pushes his vocal stylings further than he ever did in his earlier work, the best example of this being “Pale yellow”, in which the bridge between symphonic and downright lyrical arrangements is almost crossed;
- Despite a still overwhelmingly heavy atmosphere and these dry, factory-like sound bits that populate most of the album’s tracks, S16 is actually somewhat lighter than its predecessor, as in it allows some light to get in. Proof being the subtle chorus work on “Reactor”… or the fact that this album features color in its artwork!
All in all, this new album may not reach the anthemic status of its predecessor — we are missing a hook as powerful as those “Iron” horns for that — but it is unequivocally a more sophisticated and layered piece of work, one that definitely goes beyond “classical” French Touch and into newer, fresher territory. Woodkid is out of the woods now…