Woodkid is an artist whose music really defies all convention. Born Yoann Lemoine of French and Polish descent, he is most notably a music video director who has directed for Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey, and won multiple awards for his videos, including a Grammy for his video of his own song “Run Boy Run.” In 2013 he released his first record, “The Golden Age,” which is loosely classified as neo-folk—yes, no one else knows what that means.
The only way to describe it is how Woodkid himself explains it: “I want you to feel epic” was his driving motto for the album, which certainly makes you feel that way. Each song sounds as if it should be in a trailer, which some already have been, or an accompaniment in a movie. Each song is filled with graceful sweeps and melodic lyrics filled with poignant imagery. The album is also autobiographical, which brings an interesting extra layer to all of the songs.
The album opens with the eponymous “Golden Age,” which sets up huge, sweeping sounds that build throughout the song, accompanied by massive racing drums and trumpets. It also introduces us to Woodkid’s incredibly unique voice. It is by no means perfect, but his voice is filled with loving pangs that draw you in and allow you to get lost in the music. The first song also brings us an important tidbit about Woodkid: That he is in love with a man. This shows up through most of the songs but is never dwelled upon. He brings so much power into these lyrics, never bemoaning the fact that he is gay, and the result is beautiful.
The following track is probably his most famous: “Run Boy Run” has been featured in several videos, including the cinematic trailer for the upcoming video game, “Dying Light.” The song is incredibly fast paced, like all songs of Woodkid’s epic. The song’s music video is also a visual treat, with animals akin to those in “Where the Wild Things Are” busting out from the ground to help a boy run from his captors. Next we have “The Great Escape” which keeps the fast-paced drums of “Run Boy Run” and adds the sweeping trumpets of “The Golden Age.”
Following “The Great Escape” is “Boat Song,” which slows down the pace considerably but keeps the cinematic field flowing. His poetic lyrics really shine through here, with lines like “Can we keep our bearing straight / Or will we be blown off course? / Are we instruments of fate? / Do we really have a choice?” Then comes “I Love You,” the best song on the record. Its groovy epic organ sweeps through the background as Woodkid croons to the man that he loves: “As we were dancing in the blue / I was synchronized with you / But now the sound of love is out of tune.” This song is one of my absolute favorites from 2013 and is just a great epic song that is so unique and always worth the listen, not to mention its status as probably the best music video of last year.
Woodkid slows it down again for “The Shore” and keeps that feeling moving into the beginning of “Ghost Lights,” building it into an extremely epic and huge sound. After “Ghost Lights” is “Shadows,” an orchestral-only song that is extremely moving and beautiful. Then comes “Stabat Mat” which exemplifies all of the epic bits of the album, with huge drums, chanting voices and powerful organ.
“Conquest of Spaces” continues this feeling but in a faster pace than the deliberate movement of “Stabat Mater.” Following that is “Falling,” another quiet orchestral piece. “Where I Live” slows it down again for the most down-to-earth and purely emotional song, where in an awesome move Woodkid uses husband instead of wife, normalizing the situation in an incredibly simple way.
The final two songs round out the album in a fittingly epic way. “Iron” is a powerful song that was one of Woodkid’s first, appearing in the cinematic trailer for “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” back in 2010. The final song, “Otherside,” slows it down a tad bit but keeps those epic deep notes pounding and orchestral sweeps taking you off into another world.
“The Golden Age” is an album that is completely unique. It is beautiful, strange and, of course, epic. Woodkid’s way of defying convention is going to bring him much success, and if this album is just the start of that, I can’t wait to see what comes next.