Flowerland is the third album from Pearl & The Oysters, the French/American duo of Joachim Polack and Juliette Davis, and there are few acts who can claim to have met at a Parisian high school, studied musicology at the Sorbonne, attended jazz school and then relocated to L.A. They have a shared love of 50’s space age pop and the work of Burt Bacharach, The Pixies, and Brazilian singer-songwriter Chico Buarque, and it’s clear that these influences have delightfully infused an album that you can imagine this coming out of a Radiofonografo radiogram in the 1960s.
The music on Flowerland is as vivid as the colours on the cover, which features an Omnichord jetting across the striking landscape leaving a rainbow trail behind it. If you love Stereolab then you will instantly feel right at home here. From the dreamy glissandos of opening track ‘Soft Science’ you will enter a cake shop of delicious pop-confection. You get fat glistening droplets of electric piano, firework bass playing that crackles and pops around the instrument’s upper frets (especially on ‘Bit Valley’ and ‘Radiant Radish’) and bossa nova swagger from vintage drum machines.
There’s the taste of poolside cocktails of ‘Treasure Island’, the tinny drum machine and wooziness of ‘Crocodile’, the Andrew Gold feel of ‘Candy’ (a cover of a cover of a Caetano Veloso song), with lush flutes and even lusher harmonies, the 70s TV theme stylings of title track ‘Flowerland’ and then, just after halfway through is ‘Evening Sun’ which turns the shiny optimism on its head and explores one of the album’s themes: a concern for what we are doing to our environment. Then, from the conversational tone of ‘Baby’ to the cinematic Dutch-tilt ‘Flamingo Sketches’, Pearl & The Oysters return to a lighter-than-air feeling with Juliette Davis’s vocals swooping and dipping over a mille-feuille of layered sounds that allow you to hear something different on each listen.
Like the reference to turning the frown upside down in ‘Crocodile’, Pearl & The Oysters seem to be hoping for a brighter future despite evidence to the contrary. But for the 45 minutes of Flowerland it’s a delight to live in their world of 60s chanson, 70s pop and Brazilian panache. There is definitely a pearl in this oyster and it’s all dressed up in French couture and LA sunshine.
Review by Paul F Cook