Zaz - Zaz
Zaz (née Isabelle Geffroy) has taken Europe by storm with her combination of jazz and modern Chanson. The Francophile singer/songwriter earned Platinum certification in her native France, and Platinum certification in Belgium, Switzerland and Poland for her debut album, Zaz. In 2011, Zaz sets her sights on America, a more challenging prospect considering all the songs on Zaz are sung solely in French. A listen to her husky, dramatic alto will convince you, however; Zaz is her to stay.
Zaz opens with "Les Passants", presenting a stirring contrast between Zaz' intriguing, edgy voice and the almost lazy swing of the arrangement. The vocal harmonies here are a pleasure to the ear; the instrumentalists top notch. "Je Veux", the first single is a catchy number, with Zaz sounding like a cross between Fiona Apple and Jeneen Terrana. This song spent nine weeks at #1 on the French SNEP charts, and it's easy to see why. "Le Long De La Route" is driven alt-folk with a great melody that gets stuck in your noggin even if the lyrics are incomprehensible to you. "La Fée" sounds eerily familiar, as if elements of America's "Sister Golden Hair" got caught in a time warp and ended up here. The arrangement is lovely and haunting, with Zaz keeping the vocals low key in a fetching effort.
Zaz gets conversational on "Trop Sensible", which might work better for those fluent in French. There's not a lot of spark in this one, however, regardless your primary tongue. Zaz turns things around with "Prends Garde A Ta Langue", an incredibly catchy bit of soulful swing with hints of a big band sound. The melody line here is absolutely infectious, and is wrapped up in an arrangement that fits it like a glove. On "Ni Oui Ni Non", Zaz blends jazz and rockabilly in intriguing fashion, creating a song so virulently the catch the CCD might need to be dispatched. Zaz' voice completes the intrigue, filling up with empty spaces within the arrangement with a sound so wonderfully nuanced and warm you might forget where you are for a moment.
"Port Colton" is a song of contrasts, exploring regret and sorrow in Zaz' wonderfully warm voice against the backdrop of an emotionally bleak arrangement. Somewhere in the middle Zaz finds the beauty of human heartache, and compels the listener to feel, believe and understand the moment. "J'aime A Nouveau" lightens the mood, a love song with a lighter feel and a swaying melody that says everything will be all right. "Dans Ma Rue" is more of a jazz recitative, showing off Zaz' exemplary sense of melody and pacing in song. Zaz closes out with a different sound on "Eblouie Par La Nuit", taking a foray into classic rock sound and expanding her vocal range in the process. It's a very successful diversion that perhaps speaks of directions to come.
Listening to Zaz is something of a revelation. The language barrier will likely be a difficult one to cross in the US, but Zaz' voice, penchant for British style melody and the quality of her songwriting might just make it work. Zaz will certainly catch on in Canada, and an album of like quality recorded in English might just find Zaz conquering the US charts in time as well. It's unfortunate that the U.S. tends to be somewhat closed to foreign language artists, because Zaz is a great album, pure and simple. It certainly deserves to be a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Zaz at www.zazofficial.com or www.myspace.com/zazofficiel. Zaz is available from Amazon.com as a CD or Download. The album is also available via iTunes.