Rouen is on fire. Fresh young pop sensation Elisa Jo is only 20 and oozes spontaneity. She has just released a retro yet resolutely modern pop / blue-eyed soul album produced by Benjamin Biolay which could prove to be the soundtrack of the upcoming months. ‘Colours In My Mind’ is overflowing with catchy melodies which continue to haunt you long after the music fades.
The sunny energy and the almost live feel of the arrangements awaken long-dead Motown ghosts with their combination of brass, female backing vocals and discrete yet sublime strings. Elisa Jo could easily have been daunted by these impeccable references, which remind us of huge talents like Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse.
But the lyrics written by Elisa in fluent English, which deal with adolescent themes like unrequited or everlasting love, are sung in an incredibly evocative and gravelly voice – “I must have damaged it yelling at my brother when I was younger” she jokes. Her vocal range is reminiscent of Alice Russel, and she has the petulance of a radiant yet unfussy showgirl a la Sallie Ford.
Strolling through the imaginary streets of an idealised England, transforming her own city into an annex of Shoreditch or Camden, this French Kate Nash opens with a rapidly and mischievously delivered folk-soul “Something You May Cure“, then turns soul sister on the stylishly funky “Oh Boy”, plays on our heart strings with the poignant break-up tale “Defeated”, and even flirts with hip-hop on “Back Around”, an exquisite piece of sixties nostalgia where the Rizzle kicks lay down their groove.
What is her secret to staying so natural and fresh? The seemingly nonchalant art, aided by her impressive musical talent (Elisa plays both piano and guitar) of setting aside any career plan simply to share her obvious love for music.
Having grown up listening to Al Green, Otis Redding and The Beatles, and having been blessed with a music-loving father who collected guitars and an anglophile mother, Elisheva – a Hebrew name meaning “Oath of God”-, re-christened herself in order to pay tribute to two of her musical influences: the famous ‘Elisa’ by Serge Gainsbourg and her grandma Jo, who made her want to play the piano. As a support act for for Alela Diane, Selah Sue or Ron Sexsmith, she showed she could set the stage alight. Now all she has to do is to control the fire she started.