“Havre de grâce” literally translates to “harbour of grace”, a fitting title for Radio Radio after bringing their last album (2010’s Belmundo Regal) into port following a whirlwind voyage. You’ll recall that said album landed the band a spot on the Polaris Music Prize shortlist, raising their profile with both anglo- and franco-Canadians alike who had previously been unfamiliar with the band’s brand of electro-pop fueled hip-hop, rapped in the chiac dialect that’s part Acadian French and part English. I was one such neophyte.
While I never claimed (nor do I claim now) to fully “get” what Radio Radio is all about, I was willing to hoist anchor and take a cruise with the fun-loving trio, and came around to Belmundo Regal‘s charms (regardless of what I ended up saying about it here). So much so that I got giddy at the thought of it’s follow-up. After having spent some time browsing through Havre de Grâce, giddy wouldn’t be the word I’d use to describe the experience. The wild abandon party vibe of its predecessor is abandoned for a whole different kind of wild. Opener “Sunrise / All Inclusive War Tour” pulses to a slick tribal beat, at turns sexy and sinister. The first official single, “Galope”, is more of a trot, a slinky, laid back bareback ride featuring Georgette LeBlanc (who, if my research proves correct, is an Acadian poet and writer). If Belmundo Regal was the frat party, then Havre de Grâce is the morning after, when the mess has been pushed aside and a spot cleared on the couch where you can settle into cartoons and a greasy take-out breakfast. Maybe even smoke a j. You’re not hung over, but you’re in no hurry to head out for a 5k run before noon.
Havre de Grâce is an evenly balanced album, not only in pace, but stylistically. There were moments on Belmundo Regal that leaned too far into comedy routine for my taste, breaking up the stronger sections, forcing the listener to fast forward to get to the good stuff. The stand up routine is gone on Havre de Grâce, as is the party vibe of its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean the celebrations are over. Like many of their fellow Polaris Prize alumni, Radio Radio have returned with an even better record than their nominated LP, and that’s reason enough to make merry.
Havre de Grâce is released tomorrow, April 17, 2012 on Bonsound Records.