I’m not sure I should be listening to this at 10:30 at night while staring at my computer, my hair all mussed up and my beard all natty and whatnot. But enough of my personal hygiene. No, I should be out in some field of flowers somewhere, running and skipping about in my cardigan. You see, Moving Pictures is yet another in a long line of pop groups who make music so sweet and catchy that it’s almost sickening. So much so that one sometimes wonders if it’s not all just a bit tongue-in-cheek. It just has to be, because the alternative is that Moving Pictures means every coo, jangly melody, brushed snare, and breezy synth from the depth of their precious hearts, and nobody is that guileless.
Believe it or not, Joie de Vivre is as much about atmosphere as ambient music. Of course, Moving Pictures’ atmosphere consists of cotton candy clouds, marmalade rivers, and a sense that summer crushes will last forever. However, these 8 songs clock in under 18 minutes, so like most crushes, it won’t last too long. And it probably won’t leave too much heartache in its absence. Actually, these doo-wop and bossanova-flavored pop confections, in all of their airy, summery glory are probably incapable of leaving a negative vibe. Unless you count cuteness overload as negative.
It’s sometimes hard to make out what they’re singing, but only because they’re either singing in French (the language of sophisticated pop the world over) or the vocals are so doe-eyed and babyish (for some reason, I think of The Cranes’ Alison Shaw, minus all goth trappings) that any “deep” listening is rendered irrelevant. Every so often you can make out “baby,” “tiptoe,” or “we’re so disgustingly cute it’ll give you a migraine” above the bleating trumpets (“Marilyn”), faux plucked strings (“Mentholade”), and floating synths (“Silence”).
Most people will write off Moving Pictures as too saccharine and sweet. A song like “Un Prince Charmant” seems too bouncy to be taken seriously, like the theme to Kunohiko Yuyama’s latest animated offering. Some might even think it’s a bad joke, and I can’t really blame them. Is it possible to make music this cute and not have it somehow be a self-parody? But then again, anyone bemoaning the loss of Sarah Records, or anyone who wishes Pizzicato Five wasn’t so gloomy all the time will see this as a gift from heaven. And who knows? Maybe Moving Pictures’ crush really will last forever. But if it doesn’t, at least they’ll have 18 minutes of breathless, purely unfettered pop indulgence in which to pretend that it does.