Puzzle Boy - how are you
Puzzle Boy are a trio from Rennes, France, composed of Maxime Pouteau (vocals, guitar, programming), Jonathan Reig (guitar, bass, vocals), and Florent Gross (piano, synths, vocals). After a two-year gap from their first EP, Puzzle Boy are back with their first album. When asked how they would define their sound Puzzle Boy made the following statement "Our music is in between several genres: electronica, post-rock, indie pop, folk... We like to give each song its own personality and mood while keeping a coherence whole."
'How are you' is a 12 track album that speaks about mental journeys as the good and bad that we create to compensate for lacks in our lives. The narrative follows the wanderings of the protagonist who gets lost in his thoughts, struggling to discern what is real and what is fantasized. Tracks vary between sadness, melancholy, euphoria, and onirism. It's a real existential exploration that any person of depth can relate to. This philosophy is reflected in the artwork of the album, drawn by a Columbian artist, Ximena Arias where you can see an individual looking up and out to the universe at a free-floating astronaut. This highlights a sense of longed-for freedom and questions of meaning. The trio is now working on the new Live version of Puzzle Boy, which will make its debut on stage at the end of 2022.
The album opens with the track 'Postcard from home (front)' which automatically sets us up for a journey of exploration within the words of the song. Opening the piece, we hear a feedback sound before the introduction of wavey synths. This immediately vacuums the listener into symbolism and imagery found in the artwork through the merging of electronic VSTs and lyrical chants. 'Postcard from home (back)' tells the second half of a two-part exploration. The instrumentalisation in this piece is a juxtaposition that highlights a yin, yang concept or in this case, the front and back of a postcard. This is really intriguing. The dreamy nature and the chants themes remain in this track but are done so in more of a soft rock style. If I was to liken this track to a specific band I would say Coldplay. 'Lucioles' reintroduces an electronic sound through the use of spacey synths but also holds on to the soft rock theme found in the track before it. 'Ghosts' is haunting from the get-go. This is the first song on the project that brings us full lyrical content to bring us the thoughts and words of the band. 'We lost Curiosity' fills a void through its dreamy and thought-provoking guitar loop. Enhanced by swooping synths and soft percussion loops I really felt myself not lacking curiosity but lost within the nature of it. This is my favorite track on the album so far. 'Comet' slows down the tempo of the guitar but keeps to a similar feel to the track before it. Introducing vocal chops and more lyrical content we're left questioning along with the vocalist. I love the feel of this album so much. 'Je ne sais pas' takes us into a realm of electronic synths and a sad guitar loop whilst keeping to the same vocal style of 'Comet'. This is an album that really hit my emotions whilst listening to it. 'Soothe' takes a different approach to its arrangement through the absence of the signature guitar loops that are found in the previous tracks of the album. There's more emphasis on electronic elements in this one which gives us a taster of what has previously been teased. 'Laniakea' is quite cinematic I could envision this as a film soundtrack. 'M.Spaceman' almost ventures into Spanish guitar. As the song develops we're lifted along with the mix out of gravity and into the world of 'M.Spaceman'. The penultimate piece on this album entitled 'Opium' takes us back into a dreamy pop feel through the use of a choppy and delayed synth arrangement. Heavy reverb on the drums doesn't overpower the vocals and everything sits nicely in the mix. We're given 'It's time to leave your fears alone' as the concluding track. This song continues the feel of the track before it but introduces twee elements to give the mix a feel of a game. Overall, I would say that this album has deeply moved me. The instrumentalisation is mixed meticulously and the lyrical content keeps to the narrative of the project. Their creative expression is very much Jean-Paul Sartre in narrative and given the cultural and environmental link between the Philosopher and the band, I'm sure that this has influenced their writing in some way subconsciously or otherwise.