global spotlight: Woodkid

This is a post by Kayne Lanahan who heads up MusicFile Productions, parent company of Savannah Stopover and Revival Fest. Kayne is a longtime music blogger who will be writing here occasionally, with an emphasis on national and international acts that catch her ear. From Kayne Lanahan:

…for fans of: Beirut, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Antony & the Johnsons, Rufus Wainwright

The Golden Age Is Over. Or Is It?

woodkid-golden-age-coverYoann Lemoine is a french born music video director and graphic designer turned singer/songwriter/composer who performs under the stage name Woodkid. His debut album, The Golden Age, which was released earlier this year, is a lofty and ambitious project that has taken Europe by storm, juxtaposing uneven critical reviews with sold out concerts and obsessive fans. He has just been tapped as one of four global artists in Absolut Vodka’s new “Transform Today” worldwide ad campaign.

The Golden Age is an autobiographical album about the journey from childhood to adulthood, and the minute you hit the 1:35 mark in the first and title track, you know that you are in for a ride. As Lemoine sings, in his slightly disembodied yet calming neo-folk voice, that “the golden age is over”, you immediately get the sense that it’s not. The music begins to literally gallop out of your speakers, filled with lush horns and massive orchestration. It’s big and cinematic and empowering and hushed at the same time. It’s both ancient and modern, with scores of classical references and yet impossibly hard to pin down; making it one of the most interesting and unique albums of the year.

Lemoine is best known for producing music videos for the likes of Lana Del Ray (“Blue Jeans” and “Born To Die”), Drake/Rhianna, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and other mainstream acts … and he has a copious amount of Cannes Lion Awards, MTV Video noms and in 2012, he won Director Of The Year at the MVPA Awards.

So why, at age 30, the decision to re-create himself on the other side of the camera? Lemoine himself has stated that it comes from a constant need to express and reinvent himself in different ways — his creativity unfolding like chapters. And it’s clear that the precision with which he has used video to convey meaning and story for others is now being turned to use orchestration with laser sharp precision to tell his own.

The album continues with “Run, Boy Run”, a song about escaping the pressure to conform to a mainstream life (ironic, perhaps, in light of the artists he has worked with on the video side). It’s the most infectious song on the record and it’s almost impossible to not combine a few fistpumps and vertical jumps while listening (if I was a runner, this would be my new soundtrack!). Yoann directed the official video for the song himself, which received a Grammy nomination and has over 6 millions views on YouTube.

Other standouts on The Golden Age include “I Love You”, “Iron” (which also appears on a previous EP) and “The Other Side” which majestically closes out the album. While some critics have argued that Woodkid bit off more than he could chew with such an ambitious debut, that it’s all a bit too self indulgent, I’m firmly in the camp of applauding the sheer largesse of it. At a time when music too often copies the latest fad, it’s heartening to see an artist dig deep into the past for inspiration, co-mingling art forms to create something wholly new, moving and inspirational.

I’ve been lucky enough to score a few tickets to see Woodkid perform when I’m in New York in mid-October. It’s part of a limited U.S./Canadian tour in 7 markets. I’ll be sure to post a few follow up notes and pictures from that show but if this live video is any indication, I’m in for a very special night!

You can learn more about Woodkid on his website and on Facebook.