“Paupière” contains both the French words for “skin” and for “stone”, organic and mineral, sensitive and hard. And it’s this singular duality that the young Montreal trio, consisting of Julia Daigle, Eliane Préfontaine and Pierre-Luc Begin, plays with on their fascinating new album, À jamais privé de réponses. The debut full-length follows an EP they released in 2016.
Together, the three voices sing the 12 synth-pop songs, truncating lines, cutting up words into several parts, multiplying possible interpretations. This underlying motive, deconstructing every phrase like an entomologist dissects a butterfly, allows us to hear things differently, “d’une autre manière” as they sing on the title track. Thus when they invite us along a possibly murderous path, “Lâche la détente / Et la balle va loin /Tire au hasard /Ta cible est floue”, the sentiment recalls both Taxi Girl (Aussi belle qu’une balle) and labelmates Fishbach and their stray bullets (Mortel).
This poetic play on words and meanings is what makes the trio’s lyrics pointed and original, especially given their Quebec roots. On their first single, Rex – a radio hit in Canada – the languorous French singing style mixed with digital rhythms works wonders, giving birth to a genre that had never really heard before in the belle province. Paupière’s underground sensuality, abetted by the glamorous and flamboyant trio they form on stage, places them alongside other Montrealers that combine dance music and queer ambiguity, like Bernardino Femminielli, Jef Barbara and Peter Peter.
In “Paupière”, you also find the word “pop”. Their sensitive writing is harnessed to serve the melody: melody and its repetition, melody and its recollection. Paupière’s songs are bursting with those little bittersweet tunes you just can’t get out of your head.
Mixing English synth-pop and French chanson, Paupière is also in some ways a “neo-romantic” band, with the accent on “neo”, brought up to speed for 2017. While you may hear echoes of Human League, Deux or Depeche Mode, the three interweaving voices are less concerned with the teenage and hedonistic romanticism of the 1980s than with contemporary disenchantment, like in the movies of fellow Quebecois Xavier Dolan, with whom they share a vision of shared destinies, part ultra-romantic, part hopeless.
This modern spleen is magnified by an irrepressible urge to dance to their hypnotic beats, yet pushes further afield, reaching for an unattainable romantic ideal, weighed down by modernity and crumbling love and friendship. This allows them to crudely evoke brief encounters on Tinder (Les Fleurs), or watch from a distance as their generation burns out overnight in poignant ballad Brûler bruyamment: “Laisse-les lentement / Brûler bruyamment / Reste là gentiment / Attend patiemment.”
Thus, through their alchemy of music and love, Paupière conjure up freedom, a paradigm shift. “Aux travers de mes paupières / Je perçois l’univers / D’une autre manière.” Closing your eyelids while dancing or listening is akin to letting the world follow its course, letting it be. And that could very well be a generational call to arms: close your eyes, you’ll see a lot better.