reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
Finding beauty in the world these days sometimes feel difficult. Much of Canada has been fending off snow, every day there’s a new headline more upsetting than the last, and the sky just isn’t brightening fast enough. Sure, the groundhog says there will be an early spring, but sometimes you need something more concrete than a rodent to remind you that the world is still full of beauty.
And then you sink into Émile Poulin’s EP, Ce qu’il nous reste. Quietly delicate but emotionally stirring, these five tracks find the place where sadness meets grace. “Les amours faux” has a bittersweet edge and punctuating strings. You can hear the movement in the song, a contemplation of difficult love while on the road. There is sadness here and on the title track that follows, but it’s sweet, building until the track breaks open into a swaying strings melody with soft rhythm behind. Shucking standard verse-chorus song structure, Poulin works more in the art of affectivity
On “Demain dès l’aube” Poulin takes a poem by Victor Hugo and scores it. The poem is the perfect lyrical midpoint for the album, which carries themes of love and nature. “Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées, sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,” Poulin croons, translating to “I will trudge on, my eyes fixed on my thoughts, without seeing anything outside, without hearing any sound.”
“Autoportrait” marks a turn on the album, with electronic bass synths and music-box magic. In many ways it has the feeling of an experiment: a twist from the classic measures of Ce qu’il nous reste. Even the title’s meaning is a deviation from what is expected, not a self-portrait, but a description of one, and of the introspective self-view that love gives.
In five songs, neo-classical piano and smooth soulful vocals create fragments of mood, only fully realized once the EP draws to its conclusion. The repetition of a single verse, beginning only over the sound of waves and growing to be sung by multiple voices and accentuated with a piano, leave the listener with a complex sense of depth.
Émile Poulin’s music bridges melancholy with delicate natural beauty. As the album continues, you can almost hear the buds on the trees popping and the small green stems rising from the hardened earth. There is hope amidst sadness yet.
Top Tracks: “Les amours faux”, “J’ai jamais su”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)