sat 22/06/2024

Albums of the Year 2023: Cécile McLorin Salvant - Mélusine | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2023: Cécile McLorin Salvant - Mélusine

Albums of the Year 2023: Cécile McLorin Salvant - Mélusine

The jazz-rooted boundary breaker stood out in a highlight-filled year

Cécile McLorin Salvant's "Mélusine": dazzling

If Mélusine is encountered without knowing its background or themes it would still be remarkable. There is no need to know anything about what frames this journey through Chanson Française, electronica, jazz and show-tune sensibilities with lyrics in English, French, Haitian Kreyòl and Occitan. For all these aspects, Cécile McLorin Salvant’s seventh album is striking enough.

Then, there’s the story told by the album: the tale of marriage, motherhood and an ensuing darkness experienced by a particular mélusine – European folklore’s mythical creature that’s half woman and half fish or serpent. McLorin Salvant sees facets of herself in the mélusine and the narrative running through the album. Stunning from every angle, Mélusine is first-billed here as it transcends McLorin Salvant’s categorisation as a jazz artist. This album, where she is composer, musician, producer, singer and songwriter, cannot be labelled.

Two other albums with similar breadths of scope were as dazzling. Each was also driven by a theme and similarly did not respect genre boundaries: Norway's Susanne Sundfør’s celebratory, intense and musically immediate exploration of heredity Blómi and Denmark's Our Broken Garden’s reflective, shimmering reclamation of the post-crisis self represented by Blind. Likewise, the personal permeated BC Camplight’s The Last Rotation Of Earth, an untrammelled audio verité account of Brian Christinzio’s inner life.

Also affecting was Hedvig Mollestad’s Weejuns, a high-octane live recording – though it does not sound such – of six pieces coming across as oblique reflections on motherhood. Equally sensational were Russian band Lucidvox’s intense sonic maelstrom That's What Remained and Evening Colours by Estonia’s Pia Fraus, continued proof that their take on shoegazing-rooted music has long past the point of genre classification.

There were two unexpected, very welcome and assured comebacks. Lush co-founder Emma Anderson’s Pearlies was lovely as was the gauzy Albion, the return of former Midlake frontman Tim Smith under the Harp guise.

Ultimately, though, it is not about “best.” Instead it is about which album hit hardest, lingered longest and touched a chord. Music is not a competition.

Two More Essential Albums from 2023

Susanne Sundfør - Blómi

Our Broken Garden - Blind

Musical Experience of the Year

Father John Misty Sings Scott Walker, Barbican, 22 May 2023

Track of the Year

Susanne Sundfør – “Alyosha”


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