The resurrected ‘Listen Again’ series takes a second look at previously released platters.
“Listen Again” is a review series in which we revisit releases that, for whatever reason, never received the attention or acclaim they might have deserved when they first hit the record bins. Whether it was because the album was ahead of its time, strayed from the artist’s expected style, was misunderstood, or just not properly promoted, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to “listen again.” This time we revisit LiLi Roquelin’s 2018 release Be Inspired.
Roquelin is New York City-based international singer-songwriter, producer, and musician. According to Roquelin’s official website, her rockin’ resume includes five full-length albums, a pair of EPs, and a few singles and side projects. The French-American entertainer has also released music videos, received radio airplay, and been the subject of dozens of interviews and features.
Roquelin has performed live and a capella in front of FOX5, NY1, sang the American National Anthem in front of 5,000 spectators Citi Field and opened for former Michael Jackson producer Bruce Sudano. She has garnered millions of YouTube views and her work has appeared in several films and television shows. Finally, her songs have been included “on the official entry list for consideration at the Grammy Awards.”
LiLi Roquelin’s signature sound is a malleable melange of multiple music genres including folk, pop, rock, and (on this release) even a touch of gospel and world music. In fact, to offer further insight into her music, Roquelin even released a behind the scenes documentary about making this record.
On this 11-track disc, Roquelin leads the way on vocals, piano, synth, and percussion. She is occasionally assisted by other assorted artists including Jeff Martin (drums and percussion), Ben Bruce (guitar and bass), Juan Pablo Ordonez (guitars, bass, ukulele, and percussion), Britt Savage (backing vocals) and Yann Marc (strings).
Track by Track
The album opens with the single “Feel Good.” It’s an upbeat piano-driven, pop piece that sounds good when during good times and even better when times are bad. But presenting people with a positive attitude is often an essential ingredient of Roqulein’s musical modus operandi. No surprise then that she recently released a new accompanying music video for the song.
The second song is “After Dark” This stirring track is a pretty piece and perhaps ends a little too soon. It contains moving, emotional string work that Roquelin agrees is meant to musically convey the message that “finding the light after hard times is possible.”
Next is “Time to Believe.” This one is an energetic musical message of encouragement. Regardless of current events, one must never lose faith in oneself. Roquelin confirms it is “a high energy motivating track” meant to uplift the audience.
The ukulele-driven “Getaway” follows. By now, even new listeners should notice how Roquelin’s signature sound has solidified. This one is a comparatively simple, summery little uke tune complete with simple percussion and almost ethereal vocals.
The quality of Roqulein’s work as both a songwriter and performer remains consistent on the optimistic “Summer Rain”. The song simply lightly flows and (as the listener will later learn) sounds even better in French.
“Rise Above” is a hopeful, unifying anthem. This one is undoubtedly ready for a soundtrack. It is an effective yet uninsistent musical message of love.
“Come As You Are” is a quiet cover. Roquelin takes the aggressive 1991 Nirvana number and interprets it in her own distinct, individualistic style creating something undoubtedly familiar but surprisingly beautiful.
“La Mer (Acapella Interlude)” is an a cappella cover of a famous old tune by French singer-songwriter and composer Charles Trenet. It’s yet another reminder that Roquelin hardly needs a backing band to sing a lovely song especially en Francais.
“Si Bien” is the French language version of the album opener. En Francais, la chanson est encore plus jolie. Roquelin’s vocals are even prettier in her native tongue.
“Petunia’s Song” is a fun, clever composition about a popular pup named Petunia. Roquelin has a soft spot in her heart for animals especially dogs like Petunia. Besides, where else will you find a bilingual bow-wow bit complete with a rhyme for “snotty” and a Beatles reference to boot?
The closing cut is the song “Pluie d’ete.” This is the French version of “Summer Rain.” Once more we are reminded that everything sounds prettier en Francais.
Overall, this disc has an indie pop-rock feel to it. The ukulele-driven cuts provide it a folksy feel while the French cuts simply have their own Je ne sais quoi. Indeed, the bi-lingual lyrics and inspiring piano-driven ditties add an international flavor and further mark it as a Roqulin rendering.
Rocquelin concluded: “Musically, the… album is more upbeat with pretty much all live instruments. It sounds more organic, it’s a lot fuller with more instrumentation and more guitars. There are still strings, but even more layers. I just went crazy with the compositions and really took more time on this one. I was inspired by the songs.”
So, if you’ve never heard LiLi Roquelin’s Be Inspired, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it…listen again.
Special Note: If you have not yet picked up the CD, Be Inspired (Deluxe Edition) is now available. The new release includes a bonus track and is available on all digital download and streaming platforms.