With a name that means "new wave" in English and "bossa nova" in Portuguese, Nouvelle Vague's moniker neatly sums up the group's concept: remaking classic new wave singles with a Brazilian pop twist. Nouvelle Vague are the brainchild of French producers Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux. Prior to this collaboration, Collin played with the trip-hop outfit Ollano; composed film soundtracks such as The Kidnapper's Theme, and released electronic music ranging from club-oriented material for Paper Recordings to more eclectic fare for Fcom and Output Records (under the aliases Avril and Volga Select, respectively). Libaux played with various French pop bands during the '90s and began working with Collin in 1998. For Nouvelle Vague, Collin and Libaux recruited half-a-dozen French and Brazilian vocalists who were unfamiliar with the original versions of songs like Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel" to ensure that their renditions had their own identity. Nouvelle Vague was released in Europe in 2004 and received U.S. distribution in spring 2005, which coincided with tour dates in locales as far-flung as Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles, and Rio de Janeiro. Nouvelle Vague's second album, A Bande a Part, arrived in summer 2006. The following year, the team returned with Coming Home, a collection of songs from films given the Nouvelle Vague treatment. New Wave, a collection of covers by new wave artists, also arrived in 2007. Post-punk and new wave luminaries such as Ian McCulloch, Terry Hall, Barry Adamson, and Martin Gore contributed vocals to NV3, which was initially released in 2008 and reissued in the U.S. the following year. For 2010's Couleurs sur Paris, the group reimagined French punk and post-punk of the '70s and '80s with the help of chanteuses including Camille and Vanessa Paradis. The 2011 compilation The Singers collected non-Nouvelle Vague tracks by the project's vocal collaborators. Acoustic, released the following year, gathered the highlights from the group's unplugged concerts. After taking a break for a few years -- during which Collin co-wrote and produced Ya Nass, the official debut album from Lebanese artist Yasmine Hamdan -- Nouvelle Vague returned in 2016 with I Could Be Happy, which featured original songs written by Libaux and Collin alongside the expected new wave covers.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 25, 2016 | Kwaidan
In the mid- to late 2000s, Nouvelle Vague's quirky mix of new wave and bossa nova was so popular that it became something of a cottage industry. By the end of the decade, the group's discography included covers of songs from '80s movies (2008's Hollywood Mon Amour), collaborations with the artists whose songs they covered (2009's 3), and a collection of songs sung by their rotating cast of vocalists (2011's The Singers) with diminishing returns. After an extended hiatus from recording, Nouvelle Vague reappears with I Could Be Happy, an album that attempts to remind listeners of the good old days and expand on the project's concept. Marc Collin, Olivier Libaux, and company stretch their sound to include dream pop and punk covers as well as new wave, and, for the first time, perform original material. The results are some of the group's best and worst moments. I Could Be Happy opens with one of their finest covers yet, a version of the Cocteau Twins' "Athol-Brose" that surprises on many levels. Covering a group as unique as the Cocteaus is risky, but Nouvelle Vague manage to translate the song's woozy gorgeousness into silky, subtle bossa nova that is a little more grounded yet still sublimely sensual. Likewise, their version of "All Cats Are Grey" honors the mystique of the Cure's original while imbuing it with just enough playfulness. More of Nouvelle Vague's mischief is on display with "Love Comes in Spurts," which gives Richard Hell & the Voidoids' brash punk a radical makeover along the lines of their reworking of the Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck." It's kitschy but fun, something that can't be said of the Nouvelle Vague-ification of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," which only goes to show how fine the line between mischievous and ridiculous can be. Elsewhere, the saccharine title track and a meandering version of Brian Eno's "No One Is Receiving" are disappointingly nondescript. Nouvelle Vague fare better with their original songs: Collin's "Loneliness" and Libaux's "Maladroit" are pieces of pretty French pop that suggest that this musical tradition might serve the group best at this point. Indeed, I Could Be Happy's covers vary so widely in quality that, in order to thrive, Nouvelle Vague may need to put their original concept aside for good. © Heather Phares /TiVo