TRAUMA, DARE TO CARE RECORDS
Francophone representation in Canada’s popular music landscape has always been dreadful. Indeed, outside of Quebec and some communities in the Maritimes, it is rare to encounter an artist devoted to performing in our nation’s “other” official language. Montréal’s Cœur de pirate, neé Béatrice Martin, is among the select handful of musicians who choose to sing (mostly) in French and, to her credit, she’s been lauded for her efforts in making la chanson française accessible not only to a new generation in Quebec, but across Canada.
Trauma represents a departure in more ways than one for Martin. Not only is this her first album sung primarily in English, but it is her first album comprised solely of covers, composed for the hit Quebec television series of the same name. Martin joins Ariane Moffatt, Pascale Picard and Martha Wainwright, all of whom have been tapped by the Radio-Canada series to perform each season’s soundtrack. Her trademark retro-pop style, seemingly plucked straight from the days of AM radio in the ‘60s, remains intact, however: despite only covering popular English songs, drawing from a diverse stable that includes the Rolling Stones, Bon Iver and Amy Winehouse, among others, Martin is as airy and ephemeral as always.
From the first track, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” it is clear that Martin is not interested in merely replicating these songs. Rather, she deconstructs each song, often stripping it down to nothing more than breathless vocals that float on a breeze, piano keys that twinkle in the evening sunset and a lilting rhythm that keeps gentle time. The Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” for instance, is transformed from a rollicking, gospel-inspired, country n’ blues standard to a slowed down, gauzy ballad that threatens to dissipate with even the slightest whisper; elsewhere, on Kenny Rogers’ “Lucille,” she magnifies the original’s bittersweet sentiment, delicately hanging each lyric on a sparse framework supported only by a moody piano. Despite the fact that Martin arranged this album with her longtime collaborator, Renaud Bastien, Trauma sounds solitary and introspective, a perfect complement to the television series’ heavy gravitas.
For many in Quebec, Cœur de pirate is a provincial treasure, a standard bearer for the chanson in a country that seems indifferent to francophone arts. For the rest of Canada, it’s time to catch up and be enchanted with Martin’s beautiful vocals and shimmering compositions. Trauma may be the perfect entry point into her catalogue, but be sure to dig deep and revel in the soft, watercolour worlds she paints.
By Sebastian Buzzalino