Review: Off Season – Venus LP

Category: music 116

Off Season Drops Second Album in Under a Year

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I must admit my initial reservations in writing a review for this album. Off Season is a project by Jean-Étienne Sheehy (JE) and he is a friend of mine. An incredibly strong supporter of Francophone music here in New Brunswick (a scene I know little about), he’s also a prolific music journalist and an important voice in the music community, whose work helps bridge the gap and scale the barriers between our province’s two distinct language communities. Needless to say, he plays in integral role in communicating the broader reality of what exactly is going on here in our province as far as music is concerned. This is what makes me nervous, and maybe just a little envious.

My connection with Francophone music is far less involved, but I try. I’ve had an ongoing love affair with French Canadian music since my childhood when my father first played me the brilliant music of La Bottine Souriante. I have four siblings and together, at one time or another, we’ve all stumbled our way through the infectious chorus of Le Zigueson Zinzon without the vaguest idea what we were singing about. My French is less than adequate. Practically non-existent. So I instantly felt inadequate when I sat down to write about this album, but I truly feel this recording deserves some attention.

The question – how do you write an honest review for an album of songs you don’t fully understand? The answer – use your ears. I guess that’s the beauty of music, right? It has the ability to lift us past any divide, if we let it.

Venus has instant appeal. It pasted the “first listen test” with flying colours. Opening with a beautifully melodic composition titled simply, “intro”, this recording immediately removed any preconceived worries I might have had about how language would effect my experience, and quickly set a collective, comforting tone that carried throughout all eleven tracks. It’s pop. It’s rock. It’s just my cup of tea. And the sequencing couldn’t be better. From start to finish, this album is infectious.

Civil War is the first song on the album and really sets the tone for things to come. It’s an anthem, mixing French and English lyrics into a total head-nodding jam. Other standout tracks include Pluies Acides, Kyrielle and Amoureuse.  As a bonus, each track on Venus comes equipment with its own unforgettable hook – a guitar or synth lead that positions JE as someone who has cracked the code of writing an unforgettable pop song. He’s got it figured out.

To describe Venus simply as synth-laden pop rock would certainly fall short of the mark. On the surface? Yes. Without a doubt. But this album represents something more remarkable. Especially considering it comes less than six months after Off Season’s debut recording, L’éclat des sens. This album represents a big step forward for Off Season’s music. A serious accomplishment by any standard. The song structures and arrangements are stronger and the hooks and melodies are first class. While Venus takes a more straight ahead rock approach than its predecessor, the electro-pop elements and vocal delivery that defined Off Season’s debut remain the foundation for his music. Off Season is a great example of music without boundaries, and Venus is a brilliant album.

A friend of mine from Brittany told me she learned to speak English from listening to The Beatles over and over. If that’s actually a thing, then there’s still hope for my French. I’ll be listening to Venus for a long time to come.

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Matt Carter | @m_j_c73

 

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