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Lou Doillon
Lay Low Jeremy Allen , December 17th, 2015 11:03

In February 2013, Lou Doillon surprised everyone - perhaps including herself - when she walked away with "Best Female" at France's Victoires de la Musique, six months after her eponymously-titled debut album was released. For someone who'd spent her time writing songs in her flat and doodling for her own amusement, to be honoured with a major prize at the French version of the Brits was something of a turn up for the books. A career in music might have seemed preposterous to her, though that wouldn't have been a wild stretch of the imagination for anyone else. The person in her kitchen who told her she had something was none other than Etienne Daho, while her mother is Jane Birkin and her half sister is Charlotte Gainsbourg. When I interviewed her in 2012, she recounted tales of a drunken Uncle Serge playing at the piano around her house when she was a toddler.

Good times with her debut then seem to have been followed by an album overt in its soul searching. Named Lay Low, Doillon has perhaps gone back to her bâtiment in Bastille and written another group of low key ballads and torch songs, but in the knowledge perhaps that success isn't all it's cracked up to be. Heartbreak and misery don't leave you alone just because of success, as is attested on songs like 'Weekender Baby'. "One, two, three, four, five coffees," she sings in that smoky, sometimes croaky, drawl, "No no, he still hasn't called me / Six, seven, eight, nine whiskeys / I know he won't." The existential uncertainty runs deeper on 'Worth Saying' ("What's worth saying? What's worth keeping?"), while on the doo-wop triple-swing of 'Where To Start', Doillon sings about having to "stop this obsession". On album closer 'So Still' she sings: "You're so big in your lovin' / That I've never felt that small", and, "Such an ocean of love / That I'm washed up on shore". Clearly we're down in the hole, and someone's not a happy bunny.

If lyrically we're in the region of tristesse, then musically 'Lay Low' is a collection of fine songs that can hardly be differentiated from the first record, though there are maybe more stand outs here than previously. 'Above My Head' and 'Let Me Go' are moody pop songs for sure, but they're also strident in their accomplishment. 'Good Man' shuffles along with a spooky accompaniment that sits somewhere between Winehouse and the Specials, while 'Robin Miller' makes a grab for territory previously inhabited by the likes of Billie Holiday. Musically, Doillon is trying new things and pulling them off, but lyrically there's little respite from the solitude and yearning. If second albums are difficult, then Lay Low was presumably far more difficult to write than it is to listen to. The whole thing is pleasing to the ear, even if it's a little heavy on the heart.

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