La Féline’s album Tarbes is an homage to the hometown of the album’s title and to paraphrase the saying you can leave your hometown, but it never leaves you. La Féline is the recording name, and night-time persona, of Agnès Gayraud, and on this album of gently crafted pop she acts as our travel guide, revisiting the places of her youth as well as the person she was back then. The inspiration to use her hometown came during the pandemic when Gayraud was unable to visit so she recreated Tarbes through her music.
The album unfolds like a travelogue, beginning with ‘Tarbes (retourner à)’ which feels like a gentle drive through the countryside and a chance to reflect on what the return to home means, reinforced by the dreamy quality of ‘Une ville moyenne’ (an average town) and in the video (below) you can see Gayraud walking around her hometown. While, for non-French speakers like me, the lyrical nuances might be lost, Tarbes still manages to evoke the feeling of nostalgia and just translating the song titles – ‘I Was Dancing Lying Down’, ‘The Boy On The Roof’, ‘The Road to Pau’, and ‘Don’t Go to the Quay of the Ardour’ (the river that runs through Tarbes) – gives intriguing glimpses into the kinds of stories we all have in our past. There are themes of abandonment of aging French towns on ‘Everything Must Disappear’ and on ‘Tarbes’, ‘Jeanne d’Albret’ and ‘Fum’ Gayraud drew inspiration from an Occitan poems of Louisa Paulin.
Musically, this is a very pleasing album to listen to. Though the arrangements might often be sparse, featuring no more than the calm bounce of bass guitar, rolling guitar lines, swelling accordion, and Agnès’s own small Electone organ, everything is perfectly placed. This is wistful, inventive, charming and dreamily uplifting pop.
Review by Paul F Cook