To Love Is To Live is Jehnny Beth’s debut full length solo album, but the record is a new step in her really dense career. Jehnny Beth used to be half of the duet John & Jehn; she made her breakthrough as the Savages’ lead singer and has collaborated with such musicians as Gorillaz (We Got the Power) and The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas (Boy/Girl). In films, she has worked with Catherine Corsini (Un Amour impossible) and Alexandre Astier (Kaamelott). She’s a radio host (Start Making Sense for Beats 1) and a TV host (Echoes on Arte) and also a writer, who will soon publish her first collection of erotic short stories entitled C.A.L.M.: Crimes Against Love Memories, illustrated by Johnny Hostile’s photographs.
Jehnny Beth’s prolific inspiration, made of style, sounds, emotions, and contextual encounters is at the center of To Love Is To Live. She hired Atticus Ross, Flood, and Johnny Hostile to produce and take care of a large part of the record’s instrumentation. It is post-punk, industrial new wave, electronic cold wave and viscerally dark rock at the same time. Sometimes, it even sounds like a make-believe movie soundtrack. The album is a mixture of contrasts enhanced by the guest performances of Romy Madley Croft from The xx, actor Cillian Murphy, and Idles’ singer Joe Talbot.
Throughout the record, ideas are pouring, as the French musician transitions from the ultra-violent industrial punk song How Could You, recorded with Talbot, to her sensual piano playing on the dreamlike ballad French Countryside.
But despite this assumed eclecticism, To Love Is To Live is always coherent in its feel. It is an instant Polaroid picture of our complex world, full of tensions, uncertainties, and wonderings about sexual identities, extreme politics, and collective hopes for the future.
This picture looks like Jehnny Beth, it is both strong, as impressive as the album cover created by Tom Hingston (who previously worked with Massive Attack on Mezzanine), and deeply sensitive. The album opens with a song entitled I am. It concludes with Human. I am Human: a perfect circle.
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