Musicians releasing debut albums often feel pressure to respond quickly with a sophomore record. Francesca Blanchard did not: Five years after her first album, “Deux Visions,” she’s finally back with her follow-up, “Make It Better,” due out Friday.
In those five years, the Vermont-by-way-of-France musician stepped away from music physically, mentally and emotionally. She left her home state for months to travel North and South America. She got away from the musical world she was in before, returning to create a new identity.
“Make It Better” evolves from the folk-ish, bilingual character of “Deux Visions” with a blend of pop and subtler tunes highlighting Blanchard’s evocative voice and elegant guitar work. The new album still sounds like what listeners might expect from Blanchard but more accurately reflects who she wants to be.
“I started to feel very pigeonholed in this French folk world that I started in,” she said, explaining why she stepped away from music. “I’m glad I did. I’ve just come to terms with a new relationship to music.”
Shifting her career, a la Caroline Rose
Blanchard admires Caroline Rose, who while living in Burlington early in her career engineered her own musical transformation. While Blanchard’s shift is not as dramatic as Rose’s move from punky Americana to quirky, satirical pop, “Make It Better” does signal Blanchard is taking greater charge of her musical life.
That began soon after returning from spending months trekking in the western U.S. and Ecuador. The physical departure from her world in and around Burlington accomplished what Blanchard hoped it would, to a point.
“All the things I was perhaps trying to run away from were still there” when she returned to Vermont, Blanchard said. “It was a lesson in how you can’t really run away from things but you can get stronger to face them better.”
Unlike “Deux Visions,” with its split of songs sung in Blanchard’s two fluent languages, “Make It Better” is all English except for a couple of conversational background snippets in French.
“I came back and most of these songs, like the song ‘Baby,’ came right out,” Blanchard said. “That was the song that was like, ‘OK, dude, you’re back – now what?’”
“Baby” sounds like a lighthearted indie-pop song about a relationship gone awry (“Baby’s on a whole other game/Only 22 he’s got his own point of view/Oh baby/What have you done to me?”). Blanchard said the song is about aching for lost love and figuring out who you are in the midst of heartbreak.
“That was kind of my ownership of my wailing in a way,” Blanchard said. “It was incredibly freeing.”
‘The movement’ following George Floyd’s death
“Hold on Honey,” while fitting in stylistically with the more folk-inclined songs on “Deux Visions,” reflects Blanchard’s newfound acceptance of life’s uncertainties. She said the song considers what it means to come back to a place you thought you had grown out of and navigating your growth and how to forgive yourself if you have more growing to do. (“Hold on honey you’re coming home/A stronger woman than before/Hold on honey it won’t be long/To greet your new life at the door”).
Blanchard teased the release of “Make It Better” by putting out a song a month, starting before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the course of the world. She chose to go ahead and release the new album even though thoughts of touring in support of it ended with the resulting social shutdowns.
Whether to release the album became even cloudier after the death last month of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. She considered not releasing “Make It Better” in light of the drive toward societal change Floyd’s death spurred.
“This movement is not going to end any time soon, nor should it. Holding off on any kind of release will not serve it,” Blanchard said. “The music just needs to exist. Holding onto it just loses its impact and its importance.”
Blanchard hopes “Make It Better” can help with the renewed discourse toward change.
“The themes of this record are also very centered around healing from heartbreak, and finding the strength to overcome doubt, lack of faith, and pain at large,” according to Blanchard, “which fits somewhat coincidentally with the current state of the world. ‘Make It Better’ is about silver lining, about fighting through to make good out of pain.”
If you watch
Francesca Blanchard joins the Burlington Free Press for a livestream performance/interview at 4 p.m. Thursday. Tune in at the Free Press Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bfpnews/
Contact Brent Hallenbeck at (802) 660-1844 or email@example.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.
This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a subscription to the Burlington Free Press.
Read or Share this story: https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/entertainment/2020/06/09/francesca-blanchard-reinvents-self-new-album/5319333002/