Danielle Duval - Of The Valley Review
Posted by C.A. Bell on 03.18.2012
Montreal's Danielle Duval mixes AM pop with indie to create her own unique sound. 411's Chris Bell can't seem to get enough of it, but will you agree?
Release Date:Sept. 13, 2011 Running Time:34:52 Label:PeoplePlay Records Genre:Indie Power Pop Key Tracks:
"We Got It Made"
Over the last several months I had begun to fear that I had lost my passion for music. As an album reviewer, you are expected to apply as much objectivity to your opinion as possible (a patently ridiculous notion). I began noticing that even the albums I thoroughly enjoyed I didn't want to listen to again after the review was written. That would be work I've already done, and there are so many artists I've yet to fawn over or offer backhanded compliments toward. I was beginning to think that finding out how the sausage was made was robbing me of my ability to blindly love something. That was until I popped Danielle Duval's Of The Valley into my headphones. I honestly haven't been this excited after a first listen since Gogol Bordello's Underdog World Strike. Duval has found a perfect mix of fun pop and interesting guitar rock, leaving her sound at times like Iggy Pop playing a Freddie Mercury song.
A Montreal expat to California, the heart of Duval's sound can be found in AM pop. She isn't mopey or overly difficult and her hooks are ultra-crisp. Typically, one might think that description spells disaster (anyone think the description was a little reminiscent of the last Strokes' record?). In Duval's hands however, there are a lot of things to love past her accessibility. These songs are jammed with interesting sounds and her lyrics are every bit as finely tuned as something one might find on a great Patti Smith record. Here is another important note, while Duval undoubtedly has plenty of references, she doesn't seem beholden to any of them. It is nearly impossible to listen of Of The Valley and place Duval in any sort of class with contemporaries. If you look hard enough you can find punk, disco, album rock, R&B, and even ragtime in this collection. Yet somehow, the work stands on its own and in grand fashion.
Of The Valley begins with a guitar rock manifesto in "Control". It's a carpe diem ditty that will have you throwing a celebratory fist in the air by song's end. "You Can't Come Any Closer" is pop in the Of Montreal vein (though much less self-absorbed). The album really kicks into gear however with "Imposter". There is a piano stomp on this song that is undeniably charming, coupled with Duval's endearing vocal interplay with a great lead guitar performance. Following up is my single favorite song on the record, "It's Obvious". This is the song that I think Duval might have stolen from a late-70's Queen songbook. This is also where Duval officially decides to make Julian Casablancas her personal bitch. There isn't a weak moment to follow from that point forward. "Ambulance" has a wonderful guitar groove that should please even the snootiest of indie kids. "Sundowner" and "We Got It Made" are the closest attempt at balladry on the album, and they both work (particularly the mini duet on the latter). "Eagle Cathedral" provides just more evidence of Duval's keen hand with fun pop songs (as if we needed any).
Each of these songs is a case study in pure fun and enjoyment. I think that is what I appreciate about Duval most. She is proving that you don't have to be difficult to be artistic. This sounds like it was fun to make and Danielle wanted to share it with us. Very rarely does an album come along that makes me truly thankful for its existence. Of The Valley is unquestionably one of those records. On "Sundowner" Duval says "the face of the future is kind". If she keeps making music like this, I have no doubts about that. This is a perfect record.
The 411: This is the most enjoyable new record I have heard in five years. I think Duval has succeeded where many failed before her. She has taken an indie sensibility and made it fun. Of The Vally is perfect in every way that matters. This is a must buy.