Yoann Lemoine's second studio album - 7 years in the making - is an incredibly powerful slow burner. An outstanding journey through a complex soundscape, S16 manages to mantain Woodkid's signature cinematic style while taking a significant step forward in both lyrics and arrangements. Woodkid seems to have grown out of its initial bombastic, bass-heavy, blustering singles, instead embracing a more subdued tone that is more neoclassical than chamber pop. Whether the general public will like S16 remains to be seen; for me personally, this is an incredible effort, well worth the wait, and a strong contender for album of the year.
In your likeness
In your likeness is a slow, deliberate, harrowing song that deserves a special mention not just because of its outstanding musical arrangement, but also because of the fantastic music video that accompanies it. As the album's third single, In your likeness is a pretty accessible song that still carries all of the power of Lemoine's multifaceted sound.
It's also one of the songs that are the closest to Woodkid's previous efforts: an interesting hybrid between early Lemoine arrangements like the ones in The Golden Age, and S16's remaining array of tracks.
In your likeness is incredibly smooth: it's one of these songs that you can listen to in the dark, before sleeping. Its soundscape is incredibly wide; its lyrics simple but effective. "I know I'm not made in your likeness. You're not made for my darkness" will not win any awards for creativity, but damn it does tugs on your heartstring - especially as the orchestra picks up once more and Lemoine's voice starts flickering to life. If there is a signature track for S16, it's probably this one.
Probably the album's best track, Reactor beautifully cycles through the album's three recurring melodic themes: a sweeping strings orchestra, a beautiful children's choir, and Lemoine's own melancholic baritone voice.
Reactor is a ballad, but quite an experimental one at that. The lyrics sketch a few incredibly powerful scenes, like strobes in the darks, but it's up to the listener to imagine an entire world around the song's sparse hints. "See what remains of love in the acid" sings Woodkid as the arcs pick up again, and just like that a single sentence manages to spawn a cinematic universe of its own.
Iridescent is the world I'd use to describe Reactor as a single. The song's arrangement covers multiple octaves, and Woodkid follows both the strings and the children choir up and down the music scale without breaking a sweat. The musical texture of this song is unlike anything else released this year - an incredibly complex construction built out of clear, sharp, deceivingly simple pieces.
Minus Sixty One
Starting slow but quickly picking up speed, basically a resonant avalanche of incredible string and brass themes, Minus Sixty One is S16's closing song, and it leaves a strong and lasting impression by pulling together all of S16's themes to finish on a wildly high note.
"What is left, and what is right" wonders Lemoine halfway through the song. As much of the other lyrics in S16, they would be quite cringe-inducing were it not for the incredible sound texture that accompanies it. Much like movies have us suspend our disbelief for implausible stories and ham-fisted dialogue lines, Minus Sixty One's brilliant arrangement, beautiful choir, and sweeping orchestra more than make up for the sometimes heavy-handed lyrics.
As the choir wraps up the song - and with it, the album - the musical camera recedes back into silence. Just like the final scene of a beautiful movie, S16 fades into black.
"What is it I'm trying to find?" sings Lemoine one last time, at the very end of Minus Sixty One. Whatever it is, S16 was worth the journey.
If you liked this, also listen to: San Fermin, Nils Frahm, Son Lux, Hildur Guðnadóttir
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