Une Débutante Au Jeu

by Poplin



Liner Notes:

Une Débutante Au Jeu started life back in late 2005 when I had the idea of working on a few unique "seed" ideas I have half-written, some dating to 2003, and releasing them independently as a digital EP. The creative impetus came with the discovery of Benjamin Biolay and Keren Ann's albums - Rose Kennedy, La Biographie de Luka Philipsen and La Disparition. I was captivated by the songwriting, the chord colours they used, the arrangement and instrumentation. From there I started to ponder on such questions as - what makes a song sound french, besides the words? What is it that makes certain French pop music sound sophisticated or classy? Is it possible to write a french-sounding song without employing the usual clichés? Or even beyond the music itself – can one actually impart a metropolitan French character into the song – for instance their fashion and aesthetic sense, their joie d'vivre, or their knack for blending the classic and the modern?

Some of the most enduring melodies I can recall from my childhood happened to be of French pedigree - like L'amour Est Bleu, Francis Lai's theme from Un Homme et Une Femme, François de Roubaix's Enterrement Sous-Marin, and Richard Clayderman's repertoire. I half-seriously set myself a challenge to write melodies that, if set to French lyrics, could give the impression that the songs are indeed of French origin. I spent the next few years developing the seed ideas while constantly listening and tuning my aesthetic sense towards the 60's French scene - Gainsbourg, the Yéyé vanguard, Legrand and the La Nouvelle Vague soundtracks. The American influence of that time was unmistakable, but I tried to isolate what is originally theirs and what they infused from others.

Over time, the musical concept evolved into something not exclusively French-sounding, but definitively "old-school" style songwriting with dramatic melodic development; in "old-world" style arrangement and instrumentation featuring prominently tonal colours and voicing of strings, winds/reeds and brass. Yet I consciously tried not to sound like a 60's-inspired band or an authentic 60's covers act. I was looking for a new blend, and ended up with a mélange, with allusions to jazz, Tin Pan Alley, Gershwin, torch song, twee, chamberpop, funk, Shibuya-Kei and bossanova.

Lyrically, it is also an old-fashioned concept - four songs with four imaginary female protagonists living in four different metropolises, each in a different emotional season - a heart from frozen to thawing, blooming to wither. <see more notes about lyrics by clicking on individual songs>

This EP took almost four years from conception to release, and most of the time was spent on writing the songs. I set out wanting to make music popular because of the songs themselves once again. I hope to have inched forward from the starting line.

- Koi (a.k.a. Guy Poplin)


BRIDGET LOW is frontwoman/singer of Breakbeat Theory, a live electronica outfit:

LILIA YIP is singer/songwriter of morphy, the band who refuses to be spelt with a capital "M":


released January 20, 2010


Bridget Low: Lead and backing vocals on Une Débutante Au Jeu & Carnaval
Lilia Yip: Lead and backing vocals on Pour Miss Mundane & First Light of Paris
Nathan Winterflood: Drums on Pour Miss Mundane & Une Débutante Au Jeu
Prakash Xavier: Drums on First Light of Paris & Carnaval
Koi: All other backing vocals, weird noises, instruments and MIDI

All songs written, arranged, produced, engineered, mixed & mastered by Koi (he also made all the coffee)
Assistant Engineer: Aaron Lim (guitar recording sessions on First Light of Paris & Pour Miss Mundane)
Front cover concept: Koi
Front cover photography: Naz
Front cover visual direction, styling, editing and layout: Bridget Low, Wilson Wong & Koi
Front cover model: Sue Ann Oliveiro
"The Débutante Queen of Hearts" Logo design - Bridget Low


Thanks to all you people involved in each aspect who went the extra mile because you saw and understood how it is important to me.

Special thanks to the vocalists - for all the effort, time, commitment, ideas and trust in my vision. And especially for making me see that what I really wanted was to make music that means something to myself. In other words, thank you for empowering my childish indulgence.

To Aaron, Kamal, Ken, Long, Melvin, Wilson & the Wong family who lent me space, microphones, guitars, cymbals, computers etc which kept my Nebuchadnezzar powered up. To June, for the French “tech support” and vetting the press write-ups. To Calvin for constantly baiting me out of my bubble of isolation with beer, ciggies and calories, and preserving my sanity in the process. To all my friends for the warm conviviality. To my family for support & putting up with my aloofness. To all the musicians and engineers who have generously shared their knowledge with me and inspired my passion in the past 20 years of my musical life.

This EP is dedicated to Mom, who bought me my first blank cassette tape and suggested that I tape Mozart and Beethoven off radio when she saw a very quiet child who always sat against the wall staring into space after he has done his homework.



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Track Name: Une Débutante Au Jeu (feat. Bridget Low)
What if I stayed aloof,
bode my time, how would you
Take to my fumbling ruse?
Requite a furtive glance?

What if I made a move
At the stroke of twelve? what would you
Make of my orphaned shoe?
Come size me up undone?

Look at this ingenue [up for the crown...]
Just when she hears the cue she stumbles [ooh..]
She puts on a brave front
Pay her the homage due [applaud this clown...]
If she endears to you a little [ooh..]
Je suis une débutante au jeu

What if I played the field
To catch your eye, how would you
Take to my effort to
abet you to advance?

What if I flouted rules,
Spilled my guts, what would you
Make of this blunt prelude?
Take flight at your first chance?

She's staking her trousseau [right from the start..]
Before the game is through she buckles [ooh..]
On her sleeve wears her heart
And when she's dealt the deuce [the deuce of clubs...]
Turn back so she won't see you chuckle [ooh..]
Je suis une débutante au jeu

Une débutante au jeu never beguiles
She plays the only way she knows how
Track Name: First Light of Paris (feat. Lilia Yip)
Last light in August
First flush as April
Rain-scented cobble
Brandishing glow
Off the lamp posts
Cool spurted whispers
Warm stolen kisses
Whimsical capers
Night elapses
In a faint stupor

Don't hush our step let it echo
Heed not the hour let them wake
By the first light of Paris
Our love will be pressed in its page

Scene from the big screen
Played out in blue tint
Miming a daydream
Culled from memory
Wrought of make-believe

Don't stir the air let it linger
Mind not the eyes turn them red
By the first light of Paris
Our tale will be spun in its thread

By the first light of Paris
Our love will be pressed in its page
Track Name: Carnaval (feat. Bridget Low)
We'd swivel
on Love's carousel
In its spell
Just what were we to do but let
Our hair down
Our feet off the ground
Vive la carnaval

That night it seemed
No one could reach
Our perch on top the
tower of love
The lights of grim
Were far like stars
In galaxies

The rest they haggled on below
But the silence was ours alone

Daylight permits
no one reprieve
To wean oneself
from reveries
Against the scene
Of teeming spring
I drivel on
About winter dreams

Yes I should smile like the children
Tears the minute past all but forgotten

to Love's carousel
We'd dismount
And watch the vertigo wind down
This fairground
Has long shifted town
The day after carnaval
Track Name: Pour Miss Mundane (feat. Lilia Yip)
Oh what a day
Morning engines look to a cold start ahead
Pour in coffee and feel the gears start to drag
No not today
Pick some other time to rain
But then again
Don't I always wake on the wrong side of bed

Cos the right side is the side that is left
After Mr. Right comes to take his place

Till that day
Moving on means nothing but rush hour trains
Dressed up to the nines to arrive shy of ten
Dread as I may
I'm resigned to braving this lame masquerade
unescorted, that being said

Don't we all believe that all that it takes
Is for someone to take it all away

Save my day salvage my undoing
Oh what a day classic in the making

Poor Miss Mundane life's gone against her favour
Strangely of late funny how fate conspires (here)