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Petit Fours

Grand Duchy

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Album Review

Violet Clark grew up loving '80s synth pop and new wave; as Black Francis, Frank Black pioneered the alternative rock sound of the late '80s and early '90s. As Grand Duchy, the duo marry these styles into Petits Fours' shiny, surprisingly eclectic style. While Clark appeared on Black's Honeycomb and Fast Man Raider Man, Petits Fours feels truly like a joint effort — they take turns singing lead and bringing their particular strengths to the fore, and Clark's contributions don't feel overwhelmed by playing with an alt rock great (who just happens to be her husband). Most of the songs Black takes the lead on wouldn't necessarily sound out of place on one of his own albums, especially the opening track "Come Over to My House"'s brash stomp, but even this song has more keyboards on it than any of his work since Frank Black or Teenager of the Year. However, if it weren't for his unmistakable full-throated howl, "Black Suit"'s darkly glamorous sheen could easily fit on an Interpol album. It's the songs on which Clark sings lead that really define Grand Duchy and Petits Fours: Clark, who was in other bands and self-released her own album before meeting and marrying Black, takes the album in very different directions, from the sultry synth pop of "Seeing Stars" to "Lovesick"'s sassy rock, on which her vocals have a touch of Kim Deal and other '90s alternative rock ladies to them. Given Black and Clark's previous collaborations, these songs are surprisingly expansive; when this works, it lends an epic cast to the power ballad "Long Song" and allows "Ermesinde" to morph from strummy acoustics to sweetly harmonized electronics with some Fiery Furnaces-like tangents along the way. At other times, songs like "Fort Wayne" and "Break the Angels" feel padded, and it's hard to shake the feeling that Petits Fours would be sweeter if it was a little shorter. Still, Grand Duchy have enough fun on the album that more often than not, it's contagious.

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Named for a principality overseen by a Duke or Duchess, Grand Duchy are the husband-and-wife duo of Black Francis and Violet Clark. Francis' history with the Pixies and his solo career as Frank Black are well-known, while Clark played keyboards as a child and played with several bands in high school. Shortly before meeting Francis, she put out an album of her own; after the pair married, she provided backing vocals on his 2007 album Bluefinger and played bass on 2008's SVN FNGRS EP. The pair took...
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Petit Fours, Grand Duchy
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