In a career that has developed over the course of the last 20 years, the multi-instrumentalist and producer has been on a restless quest to create a sound world of her own across a string of increasingly absorbing albums – none more so than her latest offering, Night Songs. As its title suggests, this is a hugely intimate album that sees her breaking away from the established way in which she makes music. Her last album, Older (released in 2015 and certified gold in France the following year) was co-produced with her husband David Donatien who also co-wrote four songs. Donatien was also co-produced and collaborated with her on her two previous offerings, She Was A Boy (2010) and her self-titled 2007 effort, both of which were credited to the pair. This time around, the songs are purely hers, arranged and produced solely by Yael. The material on Night Songs are a world away from New Soul – Yael’s breakthrough hit which secured her and David a global audience when it was used by Apple to soundtrack the TV advert around the launch of the company’s new lightweight computer, The MacBook Air. An infectious piece of upbeat piano pop, the track itself entered the Billboard chart in the US at Number 10 and remained at the top of the singles chart in France for 14 weeks. A quick look at more recent stats will tell you that New Soul has been streamed over 86 million times on Spotify alone, transforming Yael into a genuinely international artist. For Yael and David, the track’s success guaranteed them financial security, allowing them to buy a house for their young family as well as fitting studios in which they could work. It was there that they made the music which saw them enjoy further success and which saw Yael win multiple awards at the annual Victoires De La Musique ceremony – the French equivalent of The Brits – where she was last crowned Best Female Pop Singer in 2016. Ironically, the first two songs written for Nights Songs are The Sun and Shine – both titles suggesting a certain level of optimism when in fact they are both ruminations on the passage of time filled with raw reflection. Indeed, Night Songs moves away from the hollow clamour of pop music, fuelled by an understanding that with age comes wisdom. The idea of acceptance – of circumstance, self, relationships and of life in general – lies at the core of the album. It is what informs songs like Familiar, the waltzing Sweetheart and the questioning How Will I Know that examine relationships in unflinching detail. Elsewhere, on She s Yael projects own emotions in the third and reflects on her own desire to escape from herself. The album’s lyrical confessional nature and intimacy is also matched by Yael’s remarkable arrangements as well as the space within the music itself. Key to the textures on Night Songs is Yael’s use of the voice – both her own and the Hungarian-inspired Paris-based choir Zéné who appear on numerous tracks. The piano-led yearning of Watching You exemplifies the intricacy that defines the vocal arrangements on the record. The same is true of Des Miettes (English translation: Some Crumbs resplendent with a moment of wordplay worthy of Serge Gainsbourg) – one of two tracks alongside Les Trous (The Holes) sung in Yael’s native tongue on the album, both of which draw on the great tradition of French chanson. While the album reflects a period of emotional turmoil and the mania of creation, Night Songs is also an album that Yael admits has been a cathartic experience.
- Yael Naim
- Silent Green