Françoise Hardy – Personne d’autre (2018)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 39:19 minutes | 775 MB | Genre: Pop
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © Parlophone France
Françoise Hardy has been absent from recording for six years. While that’s not unusual for her — she’d gone eight years between albums during her 57-year career — the circumstances surrounding that absence directly shine a light on Personne d’Autre (Nobody Else), her 24th studio album. Hardy was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer a few years before 2012’s L’Amour Fou. The process of cutting a record while going through cyclical chemo treatments was exhausting. She’d decided it was her final outing. The cancer never really went into remission during those years, and Hardy eventually became so ill, she lapsed into a coma for eight long days in 2015. But she rallied. She’d completely lost her singing voice, but she was alive and determined to fight back.
Ultimately, she did. After hearing “Dors Mon Ange” (Sleep, My Angel) by Finland’s Poets of the Fall, she asked Eric Benzi, her chief collaborator and producer here, to work up a version she could sing. She adapted the lyrics in French and embellished them to where it suited her; it is the hub this album turns on. Personne d’Autre finds the yé-yé icon writing and singing as if her life depended on it (and perhaps it does). Among the three cover songs here, she offers her version of Yael Naim’s “You’re My Home,” sung directly to her son Thomas Dutronc and husband Jacques in English. It’s a signifier for the rest of this date: it’s intimate and gentle, and while musically delicate, lyrically it’s anything but. Hardy looks at mortality head-on through elegant pop and gauzy soft rock, as evidenced by “Un Seul Geste” where, in her still wispy yet huskier voice, she sings “Because all markers panic and time is accelerating nowhere” amid lithe guitars and spindly, shimmering keyboards.
In the title track, as piano and electronic keys create a silky sonic web, she opines “Other life, other words, pure loss/What is the point in closing your eyes/How to lose your mind so much/For a sign or two?” as guest Renaud Garcia-Fons’ bowed double bass adds dimension. “Train Spécial” is a nostalgia-inflected yé-yé exercise that pays homage to Jacques. The reading of Michel Berger’s “Seras-Tu Là?” (Will You Be There?) finds her trio — Benzi, guitarist Jeff Bourassin, and bassist Roberto Briot — appended by the Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra, adding drama as well as poignancy. Her vocal poses steely questions directly at the oncoming darkness: “Will you be able to follow me there, where I’m going?/Will you know how to live the worst: loneliness/Passing time and habit/Look at them, our enemies/Tell me yes.” Hardy’s voice is strong and resolute as it is also vulnerable throughout. While not as career-defining as her early-’70s work, or even 1996’s Le Danger, Personne d’Autre finds Hardy in full command of her authority as a songwriter and, despite her voice’s wear and tear, the full weight and charm of her signature as a singer. If this is indeed her final recording, it’s one she can be proud of and one for fans to celebrate.
01. A cache-cache (3:31)
02. Dors mon ange (4:08)
03. Personne d’autre (3:00)
04. Un seul geste (3:22)
05. You’re My Home (3:23)
06. Seras-tu là ? (3:09)
07. Quel dommage (3:18)
08. Train spécial (4:05)
09. Brumes (3:03)
10. Trois petits tours (3:10)
11. Le large (3:44)
12. Un mal qui fait du bien (1:34)