Yann Tiersin arrives back on the music scene with his seventh studio album Skyline — one year since his previous offering Dust Lane. Yes, the mastermind behind one of the most memorable scores of all time (to French film Amélie) has returned with a nearly-immaculate musical endeavor. The multi-instrumentalist Tiersin has developed his idiosyncratic sound over the years by favoring instruments such as the piano, guitar, xylophone, violin, synthesizer and, surprisingly, the typewriter in his compositions. When combined, these sounds create intensely moody, multi-layered musical pieces that harness the dreamy quality of a symphony orchestra. The melodies and lyrics produce achingly beautiful sounds, the kind that you feel vibrating in your bones.
The death of his mother and close friend definitely contributed to the tone of Dust Lane, albeit Tiersin underlines that the album was imagined before the tragic event. People seeking the same musings on death will not come across them in Skyline. Tiersin strays from morbid notions, his lyrics invoking lighter emotions. In a way, these songs act as tethers, allowing for our minds to escape the mundane reality. Have no fear though, the album can just as easily ground the reader before their imagination flies too far following the lows and highs of the songs.
“Another Shore,” the first song off the album, is a beautiful introduction to Tiersin’s whimsical melancholia. A waterfall of bells weaves in and out of the notes of his acoustic guitar. Next, electronic sounds announce the arrival of the electric guitar as sounds explode. The repetitions become more and more intricate as they are meticulously built upon. Suddenly, towards the end of the song, the bass clarinet signals the final crescendo.
There is precious little information about the meaning of the songs from the actual composer. The number of interviews Yann Tiersin has conducted regarding his new album is close to zero (granted, the album was only released recently). However, the artist has commented on “I’m Gonna Live Anyhow” as being a meditation on enjoying the small pleasures of life before you reach the inevitability of death. The repetition of the phrases “I’m gonna live anyhow” and “I’m gonna live until I die” throughout the the song generates an oddly comforting atmosphere. Somehow, despite the bleakness of the message, the accompanying electric guitar and melody contrast with the isolation invoked by the lyrics.
“Monuments” is by far the most popular song of the album. It resembles the Tiersin that everyone has come to know and adore. The acoustic guitar and the multitude of bells create a soft, lulling tone before the drums and voice lazily make an appearance. Towards the final moments of the song, the listener suddenly realizes how the musical structure has been quietly built upon, layer by layer, using a variety of sounds. The complexity of the various levels goes by unnoticed, underlining the level of skill required to pull these kinds of subtle modifications; such is the craftsmanship displayed by Tiersin.
On the other hand, there is the fifth song of Skyline “Exit 25 Block 20,” the complete opposite of “Monuments” and quintessentially experimental. To be quite honest, I quite don’t know what to make of this song apart from the fact that it features barking and screaming. I believe its positioning in the middle of the sequence is intentional. It appears that Monsieur Tiersin doesn’t want us getting extremely comfortable just yet. The frantic pace of the song coupled with the animalistic sounds is sure to startle the listener. No matter, the song surprises again when towards the end it acquires a distinct structure, coaxing the listener back with ease.
One of my personal favorites is “The Trial.” A soothing mixture of acoustic guitar and the xylophone, the ensuing lyrics seem at odds with the music: “Someday my girl, in your mirror / Darling, you will face the trial.” The juxtaposition of the music and lyrics creates the perfect environment to allow individuals to wander with their thoughts. Because foremost, Yann Tiersin’s experimentations allow listeners to create their own stories, long after the music has died in their ears. His music urges you to follow your dreams as emotions guide the way. At the end of the road, I dream of another album from Yann Tiersin.