It’s been quite a while since I updated anything on this blog. After the endless hours of nothing during early lockdown, the past few weeks of summer have been a bit of a runaway for me, and it’s been something of a struggle to squeeze in much writing at all. Having gone almost the entirety of August without an update, I’ve managed to find a bit of time to review Deluxe’s latest release, En Confinement. Like myself, Deluxe have also been busy during lockdown, and have put out a new collection of their songs, recorded live and stripped-back. The majority have come from their most recent album, Boys & Girl, but others stretch all the way back to the start of their career in 2011.
The collection kicks off with ‘Tum Rakak’, a gentle, relaxed start, which sets the tone for the rest of the release with its smooth, gypsy jazz vibes. We then follow with ‘Barcelonnette’, one of their best songs, which with its rocky feel immediately contrasts with the previous. Whilst not managing to maintain the energy of the studio version, it’s still a fantastic track, and the quality of the songwriting shines through regardless. Another of their best songs follows with ‘Daniel’. Once again, the band have brought in rapper Youthstar to perform over the top of the track, and the stripped-back variation changes the overall sound to a noticeable degree. There’s certainly a more jazzy feel than previously, featuring a great sax solo too. After this, ‘Get Down’ presents another solid example of songwriting. The relaxed setting really benefits this one, and it’s arguably just as good – or even better – than the original.
The next song, ‘Tall Ground’ exemplifies perfectly how much a record like this is needed for the current climate. A steady, summer feeling completely dominates this track, and there’s a solid groove all the way through. The hip hop inspiration is clear here too, and LiliBoy demonstrates how she’s just as proficient in this respect as with her singing. She has a solid flow, and it’s a feel that Deluxe do exceptionally well. This mood continues into ‘Back In Time’, with some of the more eccentric hip hop influences, as well as a strong party vibe. After this, the pace slows down for ‘Leo Messy’, a very smooth and laidback number with some clear, classic RnB feeling to it. LiliBoy’s vocal delivery is seamless, and the track also features South African rapper Stogie T, with an excellent flow – his voice is so fluid it could easily be just another instrument.
Next up, ‘Pony’ might be Deluxe’s best-known song, and one can certainly see why. This is a very worthy rendition, highlighting just how perfect they are for this scene, and bringing in every fun element one could wish for – including some brilliant basswork. The pace is once again slowed down quite significantly for ‘Easy’ – an appropriate title – in which a laidback LiliBoy continues to demonstrate her vocal talent through a wide range of stylistic deliveries. ‘Mojo’ is then the first and only track not featured on a previous Deluxe release. Instead, the song is a collaboration with singer -M- – a cover of his 2012 track of the same name. Being one of the best French vocalists in the present day, -M-’s distinctive voice immediately shines through, and this collaboration is particularly welcome, and a nice surprise. There’s some brilliant guitar work here too, and of course another fantastic sax solo.
Another of the highlights of the recent Boys & Girl was ‘Egoraphobia’, and this next version is a really great rendition. Deluxe have such a unique sound that no one can replicate nearly as well, and songs like this one demonstrate this fact perfectly. And afterwards, ‘Extra Mile’ provides us with another really relaxed offering – great to just lay back and enjoy in the sunshine. This live and stripped-back setup suits the song absolutely beautifully – and whilst it’s not the most immediately memorable, the musical intricacies throughout place this as one of the best of the release – it’s just incredibly smooth. ‘I Love You’, is then very poppy in all the best ways, with a bit of an early ’70s vibe too. It’s really nice to hear them singing in French as wel – and of course the song is just wonderfully happy. After this, ‘Too Me’ features the return of Stogie T, and a really nice interplay between the vocals and the instruments. Again, LiliBoy is on absolutely top form, and the musician’s backing is ideal – what is likely Pepe’s best saxophone work is found here.
‘Forward’ then provides us with a real change from the original version, with some lovely piano underscoring the vocals at first – it starts off very simply, but thoroughly demonstrating that this all you need to set such a mood. The instrumentation is superb, with the addition of a glockenspiel, and towards the end is featured some wonderful, wistfully flowing vocal lines. And then ‘Des Heures’ follows with another French vocal – a song in which the instruments somehow manage to sound French as well. Deluxe are very good at representing their roots, whether outright in cases such as this, or in subtler ways elsewhere. The song features quite the classic RnB feeling here as well. Finally, ‘Don’t You Dare’ closes the release with a particularly jazzy sound, which expands outwards throughout the track. I really like the choice to end here – a nice feeling to close a very very nice record.
Overall, this is a very welcome release. The sound quality certainly isn’t the best at times (for example in ‘Mojo’, the mix leaves something to be desired), but that really doesn’t matter here at all – that was never the point of this release. Instead, we have a band simply jamming over some of their best-loved songs together, and this stripped-back feel really highlights the quality of their musicianship. The best performances come from saxophonist Pepe, with a standout solo in almost every song; as well, of course, as LiliBoy’s fantastic vocals. Due to the setup, you can often hear the band interacting with each other during or between songs, which gives a very natural feel to the release – and more than anything else, it’s clear to all that this is just a band who really really enjoy performing together.
Written by Chris Swinglis Date: 2020-08-28