For the release of his ninth solo album Let It Play, David Usher took a different approach to his usual process of writing and recording a record. Rather than build his own songs, the Montreal-based artist recorded covers of francophone music mostly by Quebecois artists (with the exception of Baden Baden from France and Daniel Lavoie from Manitoba). In most cases, David recorded over the original backing track while sticking true to the original sentiments, although the English translations of the songs sometimes swayed from their original French meanings.
Many of the original songs are relatively recent, like Ingrid St-Pierre‘s delicate Tokyo Jellybean (reimagined here as No Cure) from 2015, but some go back a bit further, such as Monogrenade‘s Ce Soir from 2009 and David’s newly recorded version of Qui Sait by Daniel Lavoie, originally released in 1990. Together, they create a cohesive collection of layered indie pop that updates David’s own sound of sombre singer/songwriter, while often sticking with socially conscious themes.
To keep things familiar, David also included an updated version of his biggest hit Black Black Heart, en français with Marie-Mai singing alongside. Being his most known song, it makes the most sense that this was the sole representative of his own collection to put through this process, but also being a song that does keep popping up, it would have been been nice to get an updated version of nearly anything else in his library.
On its own, Let It Play is a fresh addition to his discography that spans 25 years, and perhaps his most ambitious record since 2003’s Hallucinations, but their true-to-form revision means the original artists themselves, all of whom were on the board with these re-workings, keep most of the credit. So despite not being composed by David, these songs, handpicked by him, have a likeness to his own style while meeting his goal of delivering songs by Francophone writers to Anglophone audiences as a response to what he says about music: “language is the great divider.”
Let It Play is a satisfying record that works double duty. It adds a new angle and fresh sound to David’s discography while introducing listeners to songs and artists they otherwise might not have discovered on their own. Case in point, Ingrid St-Pierre’s Tokyo Jellybean is a gem.
1. They Will Believe (In This Love) [Alex Nevsky (On Leur A Fair Croire)]
2. We Will Be Free [Monogrenade (Ce Soir)]
3. Let It Play” [Dumas (Ne Me Dis Pas)]
4. No Cure” [Ingrid St-Pierre (Tokyo Jellybean)]
5. Black Black Heart” [with Marie-Mai]
6. Dream of Flight” [Baden Baden (Le Courage des Oiseaux)]
7. War Again” [Karim Ouellet (L’Amour)]
8. Who Knows” [Daniel Lavoie (Qui Sait)]
9. Nothing To Lose” [Baden Baden (Evidemment)]
10. Asleep Underwater” [Caracol (Blanc Mercredi)]
11. Till The Night Is Gone [Monogrenade (“De Tout Façon)]