OMR: Superheroes Crash
Uncivilized World

Lisa Papineau: Night Moves
Lunatic Works

OMR (Virginie Krupa and Alexandre Brovelli) operates in similar shoegaze-tinged, melodic electro-pop territory to Ms. John Soda, Lali Puna, and The Notwist—a not surprising fact given the involvement of producer Mario Thaler who's worked with all four outfits. But if OM 's second album Superheroes Crash arrives with such a notable production pedigree, boasts robust, accomplished playing and fully-realized arrangements, why doesn't it impress more? Two reasons: Krupa's voice is serviceable but nowhere near as distinctive as Stefanie Böhm's or Valerie Trebeljahr's, and the songwriting doesn't leave a strong enough mark. Play Superheroes Crash ten times and then count the number of melodies and hooks you're left humming; chances are it won't be huge.

Having said that, the album has its moments: the surprising incorporation of banjo in the opener “Captive in the Height of Summer,” the spirited attack drummer Thomas Dupuis and bassist Louis Pouvelle bring to “I don't know,” and the guitar roar in “Ten Minutes to Six,” to name a few. “So and So” offers Krupa's strongest moment, largely because she's front and center, and consequently the vulnerability in her voice can be better heard amidst the song's sparse arrangement. And some songs do stand out: memorable hooks elevate the Ms. John Soda-like “Immobilized” while “Clean and Tidy” rises to an affecting level of dramatic intensity. Despite such positives, it's still a big step from Superheroes Crash to Scary World Theory and No P. or D.

No such weaknesses attend Night Moves where eleven songs abound with forceful hooks and Lisa Papineau's versatile voice, as comfortable delivering a breathy drawl as a distorted wail. If her name is unfamiliar, her sound may be less so, with Papineau having lent her voice to albums by Air (10,000 Khertz, Talkie Walkie) and M83 (Before the Dawn Heals Us) (the one-time East coast native and now Paris-based singer's storied background also includes stints with outfits like Pet and Big Sir). Vocally, one hears faint echoes of Sinead O'Connor, Beth Gibbons, and Sarah McLachlan, with “The Quiet Storm,” “The End of Desire,” and “What Are We Waiting For?” all recalling the Canadian singer's vocal and songwriting style. Ordinarily, describing Papineau as a slightly more left-field version of McLachlan might not seem a compliment but it's intended as such here.

The album's clearly not one-dimensional, with Papineau couching her voice in arrangements that move easily from electronic-based (“Power and Glory Part One”) to heavier guitar settings. The opening song (“Out To You”) could be mistaken for sensitive singer-songwriter balladeering while the second (“Shucking Jiving”) includes distorted trip-hop vocalizing that obviously suggests Portishead. “What Are We Waiting For?” pairs tinkling piano cascades with her pleading whisper in a lounge-ballad setting while shoegaze guitar in “Power and Glory Part Two” gives the laid-back song a raw edge. The album closes strongly with the ballad “Diamonds and Pearls” (“Who gave you diamonds? / Who gave you pearls?”) but its peak is the haunting “Call Me Frenchy” where the song's languorous trip-hop vibe is boosted by an irresistibly magical hook and lush vocal counterpoint.

July 2006