Though December is one of the busiest times of year, full of holidays and bustle and activity, for me it always seems to turn into a pensive time. Maybe it’s from growing up in snow country, where we locked ourselves away, or maybe it’s my own meandering mind looking to ground itself, but slow, steady music is the perfect companion for these times of thoughtful introspection. It was a pure stroke of luck, then, to be introduced to After Marianne by the good folks of Gold Ship Records. The French dream pop foursome have a new EP “It’s a Wonderful Place To Be (Over),” a well-executed and beautiful collection of emotive, billowing songs.
The record opens with a warm and tonal overture, setting a mood akin to a Sigur Ros or Explosions in the Sky record. When the piano kicks in on “Take Care,” it’s clear to the listener that this will be a patient listen, one full of feeling and understated drama. I loved this track instantly, mostly for its build-up with increasingly powerful undertones and added back-up vocals, as well as the steady piano chords throughout. The listener gets the sense of loss without regret, sadness without paralysis as lead singer Mathilda ponders the unknown, singing in a deep alto “Now, how we gonna face all the fears?”
The following tracks have the same warmth and ambiance, coming mostly from the synth tones and Mathilda’s velvet-rich vocals. After Marianne nails it on atmosphere, paying close attention to the sounds that make up their style without cluttering it up too much. It reminded me of Stars, especially on the organ-propelled duet “Love is Just A Game.” The final track “Space” culminates the album with a flourish, full of little riffs and existential musings (“I’m getting old/but no one cares”) that build to a climax of trembling and shimmering cymbals and synths. The track ends with the recording of an astronaut looking down on earth, seemingly letting the detailed emotional struggles lift up and out into the universe.
After a few listens, I really appreciated the simplicity behind After Marianne’s production, the way the band loops phrases and keeps the tones low, mellow, ringing and rich. There’s nothing jagged or harsh or overtly edgy here, rather, the focus is on beautiful sounds coming together, making for the kind of listening experience that feels like learning a warm little secret.