Sound — 10
Trompe-L'Oeuil is the second LP by French-Canadian indie band Malajube. On this release, Malajube offers a much more concise sound and a much more focused vision. The sound is one that is theirs entirely: quirky, colorful and playful-sounding layers of guitar and synth textures play around vocalist Julien Mineau's alternating cooing and yelping. Unlike Malajube's first album, Tromp-L'Oeuil is much more complex and interesting musically, including off-kilter homages to old-fashioned rock n roll, lounge music, and hip-hop and now displaying some post-hardcore influence. The band play with drastic changes in time signature, tempo, and volume, now showing a much fuller mastery of the dynamics of songwriting and allowing themselves to diverge from the conventional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. This is by far one of the most unique sounds in post-90's rock n roll, and it is one that remains mature and accessible to all ages.
Lyrics — 10
Guitarist Julien Mineau and keyboardist Mathieu Augustin both contribute heavily to the vocals on this album. Making much use of layered instrumental and vocal textures, Malajube often resort to shoegazer-style production, with the vocals very low in the mix and the lyrics just barely audible. Mineau has expanded his vocal repertoire considerably, making compfortable transitions between gentle spoken verses and distressed shouting, between ironic faux-rapping and heartfelt cooing. Augusting brings his high-register vocalisations to the mix, lending a much more ambient sound to the band's eccentric shuffle. Though the lyrics are barely discernible through the layers of guitar and synth, the CD booklet shows lyrics that are both introspective and ironic, often standing unsurely between the sarcastic and the genuinely hurt. Le Compte Complet shows a much more mature and developed band than the first LP did, and this is very much reflected in both their vocal and lyrical evolution.
Overall Impression — 10
Though they are much heavier rock and somewhat aggressive at times, Malajube's otherworldy textures often recall 90's shoegazing music, and draws connections with some modern indie rock bands. "Casse-Cou" finds the band alternating between subtle textured riffing and harsh buzz-saw guitar, leading into a long instrumental outro hinting at the post-rock influences that would be present on their next release. Songs like "Le Crabe" and "La Monogamie" demonstrate the band at their quirkiest with their semi-nonsensical lyrics and strange instrumental arrangements. "Etienne D'Aout" is the most mournful track on the record, with Malajube creating soaring soundscapes of texture over regretful lyrics about lost love. This is a band that demonstrate much versatility and a willingness to experiment, coupled with a very playful but mature attitude. Trompe-L'oeuil may not be the best-known release of the decade, but it's certainly one of the most interesting.