December 2007, in Paris on a shoe-string budget, we were soaking in the wonders of the lit-for-Christmas Champs-Elysees (no budget means window shopping only and, consequently, lots of slow walking). We wandered into the giant HMV store and I proceeded to look for some French music to bring back home.

I asked a member of the sales staff if she had any recommendations and she said it was not her specialty. So I wandered through the aisles when an album cover caught my eye. Illustrated black and white with metallic red highlights. It was quirky, it was a double CD and it wasn’t as expensive as it looked like it should be. I took the album to the girl I had spoken to earlier thinking she may have some basic idea about the artist. She was not impressed – she said the music might be okay, but I should probably look for a younger and hipper artist if I wanted to sample local music.

I was now intrigued – who was this not-young, not-hip musician who had this illustrated 80-page booklet with his CDs? And what must the music sound like? I had to have the CD right then. But to ensure I wasn’t spending money I really didn’t have much of on a frivolous purchase, I asked another staff member if he had an opinion on the album (I couldn’t preview it since it wasn’t featured on any of the listening posts). He smiled a very nice smile but he didn’t really have a strong position on it. I shrugged, bought it anyway and offered “nice cover” by way of explanation.

I could only listen to the album when I returned to India the following week. I am happy to report that it was money well spent. I still don’t really have a context for the artist in terms of his history or his current place in the universe of French popular music. Somehow I don’t feel like looking it up either.

The album represents an experience that feels complete – the music, the discovery of it, making our way back to the hotel room in the cold with a small package that may or may not contain a pleasant surprise.

I’d like to share two of my favourite songs on the album:

Jusqu’a La Fin Du Monde

Nos Vieux

Related Links:
Les Associes Reunis (the company that designed the booklet)

[Photographs of the album by Elvis D’Silva]