As your resident luddite who only has a (debatably) firm grasp on the English language, I was somewhat apprehensive taking on the penta-lingual Sabina Sciubba’s debut album. The half-German, half-Italian, Paris-based singer of New York electro-dance trio Brazilian Girls has struck out on her own with debut album Toujours (which means ‘always’, as I have recently learnt).
Toujours has the confident, well-established sound of an artist on her fifth, rather than first album. It’s perhaps the liberation of not having other band members to please and appease, or just the music of someone knowing what they like and having to the opportunity to make a whole album of it.
Opening track “Cinema” (or, ‘chin-ema, as Sabina inexplicably pronounces it), immediately sets the tone with a decidedly French-flavoured nuance, more than a little reminiscent of Nico, Dusty Springfield and Grace Slick. Sabina’s voice is rich, raspy, and you can almost see the curl of smoke emanating from a nearby half-smoked Vogue cigarette.
The 70s strut of “Viva L’amour”, with vocal idiosyncrasies and a noodling sax solo, kicks the album into full, self-assured swing. Depicting an apparent hum-dinger of a man, love is undoubtedly the order of the day across Toujours, with tales of “Long Distance Love”, “I Won’t Let You Break Me” and the title track.
Unlike her day job with Brazilian Girls, Tojours takes a more traditional approach to instrumentation, from a flutter of saxophone, to a surge of Hammond organ, a lamenting acoustic guitar, and the odd solitary piano melody.
From the lazy, hazy malaise of “‘The Sun”, to the jerky psychedelia of “Toujours”, the album’s rise and fall gives it a feel of several snapshots through relationships and emotions across a period of time. It could be a year, it could be a week, but the fact that this is open to interpretation makes the protagonist all the more endearing.
Whether you can understand every single word or not, the sentiment of this album is universal and wonderfully atmospheric, with the air of things being done in their own sweet time, Toujours reminisces to an age of simple love songs, and Sabina encapsulates a more elegant, Breton-wearing, subtle popstar in the milieu of Serge Gainsbourg’s Paris.