Yelle is a French band currently touring with Katy Perry. Safari Disco Club is their second fantastic album after four long years. While many fans will be disappointed by the more mature sound the band found, their music reaches many more people now because it is less flamboyantly youthful. Safari Disco Club is a very fun album, and it is entirely cheerful and infectious. However, it is also entirely in French and guessing the lyrics is part of the fun. The band’s name is actually an acronym for “You Enjoy Life” made feminine in French. Yelle is stylistic, rhythmic and electronic while remembering past lives in faraway native tropical lands, and the music is always hard to categorize.
Yelle’s music is rather hard to define, and that is the most noticeable hallmark of their style. Yelle incorporates a little of this and a little of that to make something that sounds familiar but still is unlike anything else. On the surface, the band seems like any other electro-pop band with a sultry front girl and a mysterious duo of musical wizards wielding synthesizers and drums, but a listen reveals that they make up so much more than a flash in the pan similar bands are infamous for.
Julie Budet, the frontgirl, writes most of the lyrics and sings them. She sounds capable enough, but nothing extraordinary is attempted. In fact, unlike most bands where the frontman and his voice lead the group, Yelle is exactly the opposite; the frontwoman and her voice are just one part of a very complex machine. In fact, long passages pass without any vocals. Yelle is a fantastic collaboration between musicians where not one of them wields a dominant hand.
The men behind the curtain, Tepr and GrandMarnier, are accomplished musicians and excellent producers. In addition to playing instruments in the live shows, they program the music in the studio. Pop Up had better production than on many mainstream albums of the time, especially in 2007 when bassy rap has such a heavy influence on culture. Tepr and GrandMarnier consistently whip up glittering sonic wonderlands, and this trend does not stop with Safari Disco Club. Pop Up heavy handedly shoved the aural aesthetic down the listener’s throat, making them aware this is cool music and it makes you feel cool listening to it. Pop Up had the kind of music you wanted everyone to know you liked. Safari Disco Club is a little different in that it is more subtle and invites the listener in to really listen.
Yelle’s previous album was very edgy and ahead of its time in 2007. While not very melodic or lyrical, the album possessed a sound design and aesthetic unlike anything around. That sound has since been copied and recycled many times to make hipster’s nostalgic of yesteryear, in which they were three years old. Pop Up was hard to define when it burst onto the scene, and it caused waves of popularity and excitement. Unfortunately, Safari Disco Club is not as revolutionary. While the production shimmers, it does not pop and sparkle with the same je ne sais quoi. Safari Disco Club is tamer and more mature, almost like the band does not have anything to prove anymore like an aging rock and roller.
Safari Disco Club takes a step closer to the center of mainstream by utilizing more melodic and lyrical melodies, familiar song structures and traditional vocals. Yelle’s wares can now be appreciated by many more people. Many fans will not like this shift in style from blatant loudness to a more subdued introspection. It is definitely a disappointing step to have such a leading band back down from their position, but at the same time, it is easy to hear they are passionate about their music and they are making the music they like. In four years, tastes change. The band is critically and commercially acclaimed so their evolution in style comes from a relaxed sentiment of not having to try to “make it” anymore.
Safari Disco Club is objectively a great album; it mixes elements of pop, electronic and a little rock to make what may not be an entirely singular sound, but one that is accomplished and by far the best. The new style may not appease die-hard fans, but given the chance, Safari Disco Club will join your regular rotation. Yelle’s sound evolved into something more mature and “normal,” but it is still a great sound. Safari Disco Club is actually a good place to start becoming a fan.