Judith Godreche - "Toutes les filles pleurent" (Toutes les filles pleurent)
Toutes Les Filles Pleurent marks the musical debut of French actress Judith Godrèche, but keeps one foot in the cinema: while not a soundtrack, the album features music from and inspired by Godrèche’s directorial debut. Godrèche follows in a long tradition of French actresses making records, and like so many of them, provides a welcome alternative to her American counterparts: rather than pitch-correcting and processing her voice into lifelessness, producer Benjamin Biolay allows her to retain an imperfect but natural and charming untrained quality (something which seems to be far more permissible in commercial music in France than it is in the U.S.).
Biolay, whose prodigious output includes not only five solo albums but countless collaborations and productions for which he often writes all the material (most notably for sister Coralie Clement), takes his usual approach to production here: while everything is clean, crisp and hardly lo-fi, there is little trace of any modern technology, either in the instrumentation or the processing, and the album sounds as though it could have been recorded decades ago. Godrèche and Biolay gather a strong set of songs, all but one of which (a cover of alt-country singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier’s “Our Lady of the Shooting Stars") was written specifically for the album. Some of the contributors are quite high profile (Will Oldham, Piers Faccini, Pete Yorn, and Biolay himself), while others turn in some of the strongest material (Irish songwriter Wallis Bird, Frenchman Syd Matters).
The mood here is, as on many of Biolay’s albums, generally wistful and melancholy, a tone that suits Godrèche’s restrained and slightly weary delivery quite well. As long as this romantic tone is maintained, Toutes Les Filles is quite consistent and successful, and surprisingly unified for an album that draws upon so many songwriters. Godrèche’s take on Oldham’s “How About Thank You,” however, proves once again that the ambiguous tone and awkwardness of his lyrics spell sure disaster in the hands of anyone but himself. Weaker still are the three contributions by Julien Doré, winner of Nouvelle Star (France’s version of American Idol), which he also produced. Doré’s songs are dull and tuneless, and fail to keep up the mood that sustains the rest of the album. Worst of all, he chooses to write in English, with uncomfortable results.
These serious shortcomings aside, Toutes Les Filles Pleurent is an extremely solid and impressively executed album, and certainly more satisfying the than usual actress-turned-singer vanity project. With the right collaborators and the right material, Godrèche is clearly capable of making the switch.