4   +   1   =  

One’s a former resident of Paris from Sweden with an English education, and the other is from Brussels, with this both musical and romantic partnership rarely settled in one place as they tour the globe showcasing their refreshing blend of art-pop and punk. Having toured Europe and the Americas on their musical journey towards this triumphant debut LP, the sound of Victoria+Jean is almost as difficult to pinpoint stylistically as they are geographically. All manner of unusual devices and idiosyncrasies are poured into this broth of grungy rebellion and post-punk rage, forming one of the year’s best debut albums.

Victoria sings and Jean plays guitar. Both performers are pivotal to the unique sound of Victoria+Jean, as her chameleon-like vocal style changes and evolves with each track, and his guitar work sees him delve further into an abstract jungle of pedals, loops and effects. Her melodies and his riffs seem constantly at odds with each other; Victoria’s jumpy, octave climbing performance on Holly contrasts stunningly with the track’s gritty guitars and intense bass, while Your Baby Don’t Know Me has the vocalist screaming at full capacity over Black Sabbath-inspired grooves.

Not always is the album so direct: Big Billie features an extended outro of abstract synth sounds, an idea extended into a full track on album closer Define Love. After countless soundbites of angry, dirty guitars it is refreshing to hear sequencers and drum pads lead the way into what could be the next stage of this band’s evolution. It’s unlike any track on Divine Love, and yet is probably its best.

The duo sent out tracks to numerous producers when working on this album, including John Parish (PJ Harvey, Goldfrapp), Rob Kirwan (The Horrors, Depeche Mode), Joe Hirst (The Stone Roses) and Lucas Chauvière (De La Soul) to name but a few. The vast range of experiences and styles of these expert collaborators is heard loud and clear on Divine Love, and yet thanks to the band’s own distinct sense of identity, disparate songs such as the title track (atmospheric, but essentially pop) and Until It Breaks (a downbeat, intensely gothic experience) can coexist logically and seamlessly.

Victoria+Jean are an unashamedly daring duo who have released an LP with the kind of genre-defying power that most bands don’t reach until well into their careers. Echoes of modern punk acts like Savages and Eagulls are evident, whilst equally the melodious nature of many of the tracks on Divine Love places the album in a liminal space between riotous rage and electronic euphoria. Whatever, and wherever, this band is, their debut LP is essential listening for music fans from all parts of the genre spectrum.

★★★★★

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