The male voice in popular music normally takes a backseat to all of the other elements that make up a song. But not too many male vocalists are taking any risks. We have no equivalent of Bjork or Kate Bush to dare us to listen differently, to stretch the limits of what a pop vocal can sound like.
So it’s a real surprise that François Virot’s voice isn’t putting people and their eardrums into shock. Virot’s voice is wholly odd, and his singing is full of squeaks and squeals, and most of Yes or No is sung in a register weirdly remniscent of elementary school romance and heartache. This is not singing that will appeal to everyone; in fact, I expect the level of idiosyncrasy involved will create a love-hate divide, with a large group in the middle unsure of how to feel.
There are lyrics on this record, but I’m not convinced they’re really necessary. The texture of Virot’s voice conveys so much information about the theme of the song that verbal meanings feel secondary. This is probably most true on the album’s sole cover, of Billie Holiday’s "I Wish I Had You." When Virot sings "Everywhere I go/ You’re all I see," his lone voice takes on the quality of a choir of infatuated 11-year-olds spitting up their hearts. This is music from the gut.
The entire album is done with Virot and his guitar, but his guitar is almost an afterthought. Except for "Young Sand" and "Yes Sun," the instrument’s use is mainly percussive, with Virot strumming and striking the guitar’s body. (Virot plays the drums for his other band, Clara Clara.)
Those who don’t like this music will likely cite its peculiarities and perceived insincerity. Those who do will likely believe that it’s absolutely sincere, and the music’s peculiarities will only further endear them to what they’ll perceive as a guy singing what he knows the only way he knows how. Take your pick.