New Video: Jonathan Personne Shares Gorgeous “À présent”

Montreal-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, animator and visual artist Jonathan Robert may be best known for being a co-founder and co-lead vocalist of internationally acclaimed JOVM mainstay act Corridor. But Robert is also an acclaimed solo artist, writing and performing as Jonathan Personne.

Robert’s solo debut as Jonathan Personne, Histoire Naturelle, sonically drew from desert dream pop, Western Spaghetti rock and jangle pop. Thematically, the album’s material focused on the potential end of the world. Of course, with the album’s timing, it might have hit the nail a bit too hard on the head.

His sophomore Jonathan Personne album, 2020’s Guillaume Chiasson-product Disparitions was primarily written while the Montreal-based artist was touring with Corridor, and came about in a quick and fluid fashion. While the album saw Robert continuing upon the hook-driven yet intimate and sensitive songwriting that has won him acclaim as a solo artist, Disparitions was largely inspired by moment when music became a source of profound disgust. “I spent a lot of time touring away from home. Towards the end I felt like I was reluctantly going to do something that I had longed wished for,” Robert explained in press notes. 

The Montreal-based singer/songwriter began 2022 by signing with Bonsound, who will be releasing his third Jonathan Personne album, the Emmanuel Éthier-produced Jonathan Personne on Friday. Written alone on an acoustic guitar in a cottage, the album took an unexpected turn, when the Montreal-based artist went to Quebec City-based Le Pantoum with his friends and frequent collaborators Samuel Gougoux (drums), Julian Perreault (guitar), Mathieu Cloutier (bass) and the aforementioned Éthier (violin, synths, mellotron, vocals and production). The album’s material features arrangements centered around electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, Rhodes, timpani, mellotron, synths, violin and even samples, the eight-song album continues Robert’s reputation for crafting material inspired by 60s pop and Spaghetti Westerns but with samples from obscure TV shows and movies, blistering rock grooves and extravagant guitar licks, the album features a more polished production than previous releases. 

Packaged with a Jonathan Robert illustration in which two children discover the remains of a dead body, the album thematically is rooted in duality: While continuing his reputation for breezy guitar pop, the album’s material is simultaneously brutal and sinister, yet candid. The album’s material evokes a mysterious world where ghosts, the supernatural, fate and broken characters with broken lives all intertwine and interact.

Featuring a Jonathan Robert illustration in which two children discover the remains of a dead body as its album cover art, the album thematically is rooted in duality: Continuing his reputation for breezy guitar pop, the album is also brutal, sinister yet candid. The end result is an album that evokes a mysterious world where ghosts, the supernatural, fate and broken characters with broken lives intertwine. 

In the lead-up to the album’s release later this week, I’ve managed to write about two album singles:

  • Un homme sans visage” a deceptively breezy song centered around an arrangement of gorgeous Mellotron-driven melody, jangling guitar, simple yet propulsive rhythms, bursts of lap steep, big hooky choruses and Robert’s plaintive falsetto. While continuing to be lovingly inspired by the sounds of the late 60s, the song is a bittersweet, modern fable of sorts that tells a story about a man, whose face is badly burned in a fire. 
  • Rock & roll sur ton chemin,” a deceptively straightforward rocker centered around a loose and breezy surf rock-like riff and a churning groove paired with dreamily delivered falsetto harmonies and Robert’s penchant for big, catchy hooks paired with subtle amounts of bongo, Mellotron and whistles. But despite it’s breezy air, the song is bittersweet and drenched with irony with the song being a tribute to dying art forms and those, who still practice them. “Devoting oneself to a genre destined to failure, there’s something pathetic about it, but also something very beautiful,” Robert says.

Jonathan Personne‘s third and latest single, “À présent” sounds indebted to Scott Walker‘s orchestral pop and Phil Spector‘s famous Wall of Sound production but with a greatest emphasis on the jangling rhythm section, which subtly pushes the whole affair into more contemporary realm. Thematically, the song depicts a world where excess, speed and love coexist in a setting that’s kind of a synthesis of Romeo and Juliet and James Dean’s life with the song’s central couple dying in a horrific accident.

Animated by Mathieu Larone and Henry McClellan, the accompanying video for “À présent” is abstract but centered in dualities, evoking the album’s themes: the animation is both childlike and disturbing, broodingly dark and colorful. But throughout, the intention was to present the optimistic vision of a new beginning.

“Mathieu and Henry were able to translate the song into images, and it’s just beautiful! It’s like an excerpt from the movie Fantasia, only weirder, darker, and done by the NFB rather than Disney,” Jonathan Robert says.