Sabina – Toujours (Naim Edge)
Meet Sabina Sciubba, Paris resident but with Rome, Munich, Nice, Hamburg and New York in her backstory. Her debut solo album (she previously fronted electro pop provocateurs Brazilian Girls, who were neither Brazilian nor girls, apart from herself) finds her musing on the modern world charmingly, humourously and yet sincerely, to mostly minimal backing.
As an early calling card, ‘Viva l’amour’ rattles along at couldn’t-give-a-fuck pace and beguiles with deceptively simple and thrilling back-to-front vocals.
‘Long distance love’ develops a slightly more stately, although insistent, guitar-driven rhythm which rolls very pleasingly until a coda completely shifts the goalposts, using train whistle whoo-hoo backing vocals with stunning results. The song appears to be a cautionary tale about the global village and its isolating effect on our hearts and minds, but you’ll be hard pushed not to swing your hips to the beat. Perhaps this is the point – we’re here now together in the same room, let’s forget the world and dance.
‘Toujours’ completes this kind of triptych within the album, clattering bossa nova percussion and an inspired Hammond organ lead line providing a memorable hook around another irresistible chorus – “we must make the best of it, we might as well be happy.” It's like lounge music shot through with a brilliantly bonkers Dadaist sensibility.
Apart from these three absolute winners, there are many other beautiful, unexpected and creative arrangement flourishes on the album.
Like the great subtle reed interlude on the sombre ‘Non mi aspettare’, bringing to mind very much a Weimar cabaret mc’ed by Marlene Dietrich.
And the wonderful communal feel of ‘Mystery river’ with its mariachi trumpet and group chorus of spoken yeahs; that particular mariachi theme crops up again on the very charming dream trip ‘Tabarly’.
And the sultry soul horns of ‘Sailor’s daughter’, at classic, deliberate pace, although quite unclassically, most of it is sung in German.
Throughout, Sabina’s hilariously deadpan vocals make a persuasively restless narrative, switching between German, Italian, French and English, sometimes in the same line. It makes for an all-round great piece of work marked by an adventurous spirit, fun-loving for sure but with plenty of defiance too (amid the sub-Velvet Underground thrum of ‘I won’t let you break me’ lies the genius couplet - “you’re the luckiest man in Europe, and I’m your undisputed queen”). Styles and genres are pillaged without a backward glance, stuck back together thrillingly in Sabina-style.
The world suddenly looks a whole lot better with some Sabina in it. Mongrel pop music with buckets of heart.