For almost three years we were left wondering whatever happened to the dreamy-eyed guy with the mop of dark hair and the husky voice that would sometimes fill his songs with yearning and at others could sound a little tormented, like someone recently abandoned. Well, now it’s here at last: “Reframing”, the second album by L’aupaire, on which he strips himself bare and tells us how things have been these past three years. The short version is that L’aupaire is now 30 and the father of a daughter, and has grown up. The long version is much more interesting.
For example, what does he mean in “Whole Wide World”, a gentle ballad accompanied only by a piano which he composed with the Irish songwriter Wallis Bird, when he sings:
I’ve known pain
I’ve known sorrow
And I know what it’s like to fail
Out of the blue – there came you
And something changed?
“That’s the most personal song for me,” L’aupaire admits candidly. “I’m describing a period in my life where I’d reached a low point. When I just couldn’t go on any more.” Time for a change of perspective.
The title of his album says as much: “Reframing” implies a transformation: “Taking something bad and making it into something good. It actually works,” he says, “because we can influence and change a lot of things ourselves if we really want to.” He has left behind him the intoxication of the years of living out of a suitcase, touring his first album “Flowers” from gig to gig. Gone are the days of playing the ecstatic entertainer on stage and being completely drained after each show, when he would retire to bed while his band went out on the town.
During the past three years, in which he did not play a single show, he effected what was for him personally the “most radical evolution”, learning to “remain true to myself and seal myself off from opinions.”
Not all of the tracks were recorded in Berlin: he laid some down in Mannheim, Heidelberg and even Iceland, where he recorded the guitar music for the elaborate, elegiac song “Truth” with his guitarist friend Omár Gudjonsson, who lives there. As with his 2016 release “Flowers”, he worked with a number of different musicians on “Reframing”– for example on the rather serene and wistful “Whoever You Are”, which he recorded with Swedish indie vocalist and guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee and dedicated to his one-year-old daughter:
Wherever I go
I just wanna hold you
I just wanna be with you
Nothing – nothing is as it used to be
“The song came about before she was born”, he says. “And that lifted me up to a new level. I noticed a kind of love growing that I’d never known before.” Musically, “Reframing” sounds like a mixture of folk-pop and Americana, while also containing some very danceable tunes, like “Cinderella”. Once again, he recorded this in collaboration with Mannheim producer and best friend Jules Kalmbacher. And all his songs feature the piano he discovered in a shop in Berlin and which is over 100 years old. “I saw it, played one note and knew that was the sound I wanted.” Once the old piano was installed in his apartment, it was clear to him that “it was going to be the main element of my new album.”
Key themes running through “Reframing” are the fact that life isn’t black and white but very complex, and the notion that profundity can sometimes only be reached via the contrast between joy and sadness. Through them, L’aupaire has in fact created a world of his own – not just in terms of content, but musically and visually too, because he has done almost everything himself – designing the album cover, for example, and writing and co-producing all of the songs. “The album lets you sneak into my world,” he says – an offer you really shouldn’t turn down.