REVIEW: SOPHIE HUNGER – 1983 (2010)
Monday’s Ghost carved out a deep precedent for the Zurich-born singer/songwriter who intricately and expertly borrows facets of jazz and folk to chip and shape her unique sound. First discovered at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, I had the chance to attend one of five consecutive performances at La Boule Noire in Montmartre, Paris. The stage setup mirrors Sophie Hunger‘s music; dark and sombre, yet intimate and dotted with unexpected incandescent lights.
Émilie Jeanne-Sophie Welti Hunger was born on March 31st in the year of her new album, 1983. Her voice varies from steadfast and straightforward as on “Citylights Forever” to wispy tenderness of “Headlights.” The latter captures an element of longing long associated with early jazz, restrained musically to the point only her singing is allowed past the bars. Unfortunately it was this attribute that was a sole setback off Monday’s Ghost, which rarely fluctuated.
1983 rides those same rails to a point, but with alterations that improve upon that previous acclaimed release. The drifting, hazy guitar on “Your Personal Religion” betrays a complacent listener with rare, jolting riffs as Sophie sings, “It doesn’t speak, it doesn’t speak for me!” The juxtaposition cuts through the rumination, lending strength and a cracked window of fresh air. These breezes are carried with the beautiful, upbeat melodies in “Breaking the Waves” and especially the funky punctuations in “Invisible.”
Only two tracks stumble. The French “La vent nous portera,” originally by Noir Désir feels frigid and unblinking, finding solace in the sole brass instrument. “Approximately Gone” is a Picasso amid Caravaggio, tossing shards haphazardly. I call it a slip purely because it pleasantly does not fit in Sophie Hunger’s musical chiaroscuro; but it provides a revitalizing vigor.
Sophie continues to be a rarity in merging a dynamism, sentiment and songwriting. Not only a genuine exception to the musical landscape, but her Swiss upbringing gives her an unparalleled ability to express herself not only in English, but Swiss German and French as well.