Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)

Because Music/Caroline 0525436048
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Héloïse Létissier, born in Nantes, France, in 1988, performs as Christine and the Queens and has released two full-length CDs and eight EPs. Her music addresses many of the issues of gender and sexuality that are so much a part of conversations these days. For her new album, Chris, Létissier has adopted a masculine persona, with hair and attire to emphasize it, in an attempt to examine her own freedom to choose a fluid definition of gender, as well as to look at male attitudes toward women, sexuality, and other issues.

If that sounds too topical in a world already filled with heavy debate, don’t worry. Chris may wrestle with current questions, but it’s not an album you need to listen to because it’s good for you. This is danceable, melodic music that grabs the ear. It begins with the synths and a strong beat of “Comme Si,” which evokes 1980s synth pop and disco, with a touch of Michael Jackson thrown in. Létissier’s drum programming and thumping keyboard bass keep the track centered and fluid, but it’s the layered, cross-cutting vocals that give this performance its force.

Dâm-Funk, aka Damon G. Riddick, joins Létissier on “Girlfriend,” another ’80s-style funk song, this one with a hard-thumping bass line from James Manning. Synth lines bounce and slide, and Marlon McClain’s bubbling guitar emphasizes the track’s irresistible funkiness. Manning and McClain have appeared on countless funk and jazz recordings, but Létissier is fully comfortable with the genre -- and just as relaxed and natural in the soul balladry of “The Walker,” which shows the pronounced influence of Georgio Moroder.

The songs on Chris often mix an upbeat sound with a complex message. “5 Dollars” is about the intertwining of money and power in everything from sex to performing onstage, and “Damn (What Must a Woman Do)” is a straightforward declaration of desire. The first song is metaphorical, its meaning carried on a bright melody that plays against lyrics painting a picture of exploitation that runs from buyer through bought (“Pockets full and dried eyes / It turns me on”). The second is more literal, a statement of physicality buoyed up by sliding, bopping synths and a throbbing keyboard-bass line.

Chris

The lyrics are sometimes brutally forceful -- e.g., “Let me spit / On this young man fresh asleep” (“Damn”) -- or a bit hard to understand (“Goya Soda”). But most of the time, their meanings are clear and strongly presented. “What’s-Her-Face,” a beautiful ballad, looks back at memories of a long-ago playground incident that still stings:

Recreation looks so easy for some
Nosebleeds dismissed with a cruel hum
It’s been years since that playground

The best songs on Chris combine a strong dance beat with a driving intelligence. The complex interplay of voice, keyboard washes, and percussion in “The Stranger,” for example, is beautifully constructed and a pleasure to hear as it unfolds. Despite all its debts to 1980s musicians, especially the Human League and Thomas Dolby, Chris sounds current and fresh. It is also, even with all its electronics, a human and magically musical collection of songs.

Christine and the Queens recorded Chris in studios in Paris, London, and Los Angeles. The sound is punchy and layered, with details that cross channels and reach out of the speakers and into the room. Electronic keyboards are well textured, and low-end drum programming hits the air solidly. While it’s true that some of its message may be challenging, you’ll be dancing while you think about it.

. . . Joseph Taylor
josepht@soundstagenetwork.com