I do not like female vocalists.
Having gotten that out of the way, the new Jucifer album is incredibly powerful, due in great part to a central theme. 'L'Autrichienne' sees the delightful RV-traveling duo rambling through twenty-one tracks covering the days leading up to Marie Antoinette's execution and the French Revolution, a feat that I imagine hasn't been covered so colorfully in audio form. Some tracks involve the rioting French masses against the socio-economic injustices of the monarchy, others expand upon what could have been the thoughts and prayers of Marie Antoinette in her prison chamber, and one song in particular makes an intriguing guess as to what the minute of lucid thought after decapitation must feel like. This is a legitimate playing field for grindcore bumping elbows with sludge, where doom meets garage rock, and everything in between. Nothing here is artificial, and despite its inherent variety, 'L'Autrichienne' doesn't make the mistake of having tracks that sound like they could have been made by someone else - this is unmistakably Jucifer.
Amber Valentine and Edgar Livengood virtually play everything on 'L'Autrichienne,' from hammond organs to booming horns and the standard gritty guitars and crisp drums. That is not to make claims toward Amber and Edgar being polymaths, but they are versed enough in each of the featured instruments to pull off the mood they're trying to achieve (the aforementioned horns make an especially memorable mark in "Armada," itself a delicate and dolesome union of different sounds). What could be said of L'Autrichienne could not be said without mentioning the dichotomous arrangements. Take the opening three: 'Blackpowder' pummels with a fist-pumpingly energetic southern sludge sound; "Thermidor" lets down the album's hair and provides a grindcore track as gritty as any other; and "To Earth" reels back towards a somber and blissful sweetness that harkens to one or two tracks from 2006's "If Thine Enemy Hunger." L'Autrichienne is nothing if not varied, as one solid listen to the album's entirety can attest.
However, the album is not without its flaws, and the variety's the first one: we can't necessarily pigeonhole Jucifer into any particular genre. I know, it sounds like a weird complaint, but who am I to suggest listening to this album? The pussy indie crowd's probably going to hate the grind tracks and anything else remotely heavy (see "Traitors"), and the elitist metal dicks are going to gnash their teeth on the plastic casing as soon as they realize only two out of twenty-one tracks are grindcory goodness. What is the demographic, save the open-minded (one such demographic that is hard to define, and harder still to find)? Your average audiophile may have trouble digesting this raucous romp crossing genres of all shapes and sizes. That being said, each of the styles Jucifer touches upon is carefully produced per track to replicate the optimal sound per that genre; the buzz and bang of "Fall of the Bastille" doesn't continue into "To the End" and its entrancing clean guitars and vocals.
If you have the capacity to unhinge your inhibitions, Jucifer might have brewed a sonic concoction or two for you to consume. Oh, and regarding my opening statement, Amber sings wonderfully and ranks among a carefully picked few female vocalists I enjoy. Cheers to Jucifer.