Review: Christine and the Queens' 'La Vita Nuova' EP
Christine and the Queens’s new EP ‘La vita nuova’ ('Because Music' in English) is their first new material since 2018’s ‘Chris’, the follow-up to the critically-lauded ‘Chaleur Humaine’. Immediately starting your career with one of the coolest, slickest albums of the decade; with both English and French versions, bonus tracks and immaculately-choreographer videos, is a high bar to set for any musician, but four years after her debut, Christine and the Queens (born Héloïse Létissier) has managed to cultivate a sound that oozes with a sophistication. This all doesn’t just come from the superiority you feel from listening to French-language music: it’s in the deep, bassy tones that are layered with her sharp, clarifying vocals and wavering synths. 'La vita nuova' is an amalgamation of the best parts of 80s revival pop and modern production techniques.
The first track, ‘People, I’ve been sad’, is a tentative, vulnerable start to the EP, with Létissier’s unmistakable vocals tiptoeing alongside heavy effects and simple melody. It fits perfectly alongside the cover art of a misty, ethereal purple mist with Létissier leaning against a lamppost looking into the middle-of-nowhere -- a far cry from the brazen, direct eye-contact of ‘Chris’.
Yet the commanding and demanding Christine and the Queens that we know returns as the EP moves into ‘Je disparais dans tes bras’ ('I disappear in your arms'), with enough bass to shake your memory back to Bank’s album, ‘The Altar’. Gliding in-between the English and French languages, Christine explores a relationship turned toxic, when being together with someone turns into a disappearance of your selfhood. This vulnerability permeates through to ‘Mountains (we met)’, but, again, we catch glimpses of her blossoming confidence in ‘Nada’, as she delves into thoughts of loss and ‘never coming back again’. There’s an even more developed maturity and resolved-ness in the tracks that seems like a distilling, rather than stripping back or simplification, of her previous music.
The penultimate - and title - track (featuring Christine Polachek) is an allusion to ‘La vita nuova’, a work by Dante Aligheri (poet and author of 'The Divine Comedy'), a medieval tale of love and loss. The song slides between English and Italian, and is followed by an English version of ‘I disappear in your arms’ as a bonus track, promising further exploration of languages, sounds and, of course, heartbreaks to come.
Christine and the Queens has once again proved there is so much more to her music than the queerness that critics have so often focused on. There is still so much freshness and rawness to her music that is rare in tracks that are so heavily electro; the synths disguise none of the technical, musical and artistic skill exhibited and begs for a full length album to develop it further.