Release Date: May 19, 2014
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
One gets the impression that Yann Tiersen has spent much of his career trying to distance himself from the music that most people, or at least most Americans, know him for. Back in 2001 everybody was pumping the Amélie soundtrack, myself included. Who didn’t find themselves at some point in the early aughts waltzing around their living room on a bright spring morning while the accordions and violins that formed the backdrop of Amélie blared out of the stereo? Many people never bothered to dig any deeper or wait to see what this impressive Breton musician came up with next, but those of us who did soon realized that there was far more to Yann Tiersen than cute accordion ditties.
Even if he hadn't created some of the most vivid film music of the 20th and 21st centuries, Yann Tiersen's music would probably be called "filmic." In both his scores and stand-alone albums, the artful way he blends his flair for atmosphere with memorable melodies and instrumentation lends itself to vivid storytelling, something he explores beautifully on his eighth album ? (Infinity). Largely recorded in Iceland and inspired by that country as well as the Faroe Islands, much of the album evokes Nordic post-rock while reflecting Tiersen's distinctive touch. "Slippery Stones" and "In Our Minds" echo Múm's ability to sound anthemic, childlike, and dark at the same time.
Anyone who’s seen Amelie will know how beguiling Yann Tiersen’s music can be. But, while that may still be the soundtrack he’s best known for, it’s time to stop tarring him with that brosse. From La Valse des monstres through to Dust Lane, here is an artist who is as experimental as he is revered, and who has created a miniature masterpiece in his most recent album ∞ (Infinity).
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Breton musician and composer Yann Tiersen has made a name for himself through his various esoteric yet childlike scores for the big screen. The soundtracks to Goodbye Lenin and Amelie exposed Tiersen's ivory-tinkling talents to the world, yet each possessing something a little bit more intriguing than your average grandiose Hans Zimmer or John Williams score.
I suspect there's many an Anglophone listener for whom there's always been something quintessentially "French" about Yann Tiersen. The Breton multi-instrumentalist's brand of orchestral post-rock has haunted the peripheries of the alternative music zeitgeist since the days of Amélie, one of the most successful French cinematic exports of—well, perhaps ever—and a whiff of francité has long since trailed him. .
The French composer Yann Tiersen has fused rock and classical (or “new”) music since he arrived nearly full-formed in 1995, predating indie rock’s obsession with composerly fare by almost a decade. And his soundtrack to the 2001 film Amelie was probably one of the first that young indie-loving English majors from Florida to Oregon purchased of their own accord, as girls and guys alike fell hard for Audrey Tautou and Tiersen’s vibrant motifs with equal vigor. Though post-“Alternative Nation” indie fans tend to see 2004’s Garden State as the moment when our secret got out, Amelie’s impact can’t be ignored: How else to at least partly explain the then-impending popularity of Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire, or even Beirut? The slacker-rock ‘90s were giving way to softer, more earnest tastes in the new century, a movement we’re now seeing challenged by hardcore-indebted acts like Perfect Pussy.
“Best known for the soundtrack to Amelie” will follow Yann Tiersen around forever. And rightly so; what a charming soundtrack it was. Tiersen is now 13 years divorced from that project, which just about sums up the looming spectre of a successful soundtrack over an otherwise relatively-unknown composer. Work on Infinity started in Iceland, and was followed up by some work in “Ushant Island, Brittany” – where Tiersen hails from.
Yann Tiersen was responsible for the soundtrack to Amélie. However, the success of his score for the 2001 romantic comedy has threatened to overshadow his other work. This, his eighth studio album, is a moody reflection on the stony, weather-beaten island of Ushant, 30 kilometres off the coast of Brittany, that the French composer calls home. It includes songs sung in the Icelandic and Faroese languages, with the music built up from a base of toy instruments in layers of electronic sounds and strings, combining the charm of Amélie with the grey-skied gloom of Sigur Rós.
It would be insulting to music as an art form to suggest that every album must be immediately enjoyable in order to hold value, but nevertheless it feels as though there is something lost in translation from the imagination to the recording studio that makes Yann Tiersen’s ‘Infinity’ too oblique. Though not an unpleasant listening experience it is an alienating one that shows only sparks of the lightness and creativity that are woven seamlessly throughout the French multi-instrumentalist’s best albums. Though songs such as ‘Lights’ and ‘In Our Minds’ show flashes of familiar talent, they are surrounded by repetition and ineffective atmospherics.
Rumours of a new Yann Tiersen album always come with the promise of something magical - each one is a doorway, a porthole, a picture book of sorts. The thrill of his arrival in the early 90s, along with Dominique A and the Têtes Raides, just doesn't fade. Infinity - his eighth studio album to date, released this week - is a picture book of the best kind, all waxed paper and stormy skies and age-old languages (the songs are in Breton, Faroese, Aidan Moffatt's Scottish English and Icelandic) and a myriad sounds accumulating ...
If there’s one thing that will explain to the uninitiated who Yann Tiersen is, it’s that he is the musician who provided the soundtrack for the 2001 French film Amelie one of the most internationally popular French films of the Millennial and which enticed many hipster film goers into their nearest multiplexes by way of Audrey Tatou’s sassy urchin performance, a Parisian Bjork for the big screen of over a decade ago. Yann Tiersen might not perhaps thank me much for using this as an introduction to his 2014 album; after all, as one of the most prominent experimental musicians of his generation, and one whose career is approximately at its absolute peak, he probably got a little bored of anyone mentioning Amelie in around 2009 or thereabouts. No getting away from it however, that fact will tell you as much about Yann Tiersen as his Wikipedia entry, which is a large one, detailing his collaborations with numerous French and European musicians many of whom are relatively unknown in the English speaking world.
Yann Tiersen ? (Infinity) (Mute) French multi-instrumentalist Yann Tiersen remains best-known for composing the whimsical, accordion-laden score and soundtrack for 2001's Amélie. That success led to other film work (Good Bye Lenin!), yet Tiersen bristles at the composer label and has eight studio albums to date. ? (Infinity) is ambitious and experimental, not so much songs as scored moods and sketches of dreams.
Yann Tiersen is the kind of humble, prolific multi-instrumentalist that you’ve probably heard without even realising - especially seeing as he scored the Amelie soundtrack. Hardly content to play second fiddle however, now the gallic alternative to Philip Glass is back with eight studio album ‘?’ and an attempt to prove he can still hold centre stage. The eponymous opener starts with an ominous swell, hinting at not-too-far a departure from his signature soundtrack-esque sound.