With his 2017 full-length debut, Coastline, Montreal singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Geoffroy Sauvé captivated audiences on both sides of the Atlantic with his sensuous fusion of neon-tinted dance beats, late-night R&B atmospheres, and art-pop idiosyncrasies. But he wasn’t able to fully celebrate his breakthrough moment—a few months after the album’s release, his mother passed away following an 11-year battle with cancer. During the mourning process, he retreated to his childhood home, immersing himself in old family photos and VHS tapes. The feelings of both melancholy and nostalgia triggered by that experience became the mood-board inspiration for his next album, 1952, named for his mother’s birth year.
“This was not an easy record to complete,” Geoffroy admits to Apple Music. “I ended up opening up in a very personal way—at some point, I was like, ‘Fuck it—there’s nothing to hide anymore.’ But it was also a nice way to freeze this moment in time, and pay respects to my mother and have her life immortalized.”
Geoffroy confronts his devastation head-on in the album’s arresting opener, “The Fear of Falling Apart,” a James Blake-like rumination on the painful process of watching someone you love slowly wither away and the void his mother’s loss has left in his family. But the song’s mournful piano arrangement gradually gives way to a percolating house pulse, which speaks to Geoffroy’s main objective for 1952: to transform meditations on death into a celebration of life. For every intensely intimate address to his mother (like the stuttering synth-pop standout “Closer”), 1952 also yields more hedonic pleasures, like “21 Days,” a tropically tinged treatise on giving up promiscuity for domesticity, or the smooth, boom-bapped neo-soul of “Woke Up Late.”
“I didn't want to make a record that was too heavy,” Geoffroy explains. “I've been listening to a lot of Mac Miller in the past couple of years, and I've been wanting to hit a vibe that's more chill, and that looks more towards the hip-hop influences. Writing songs about my mom was very hard—I put a lot of pressure on myself, because if I’m talking about my mom, the songs have to be perfect. But for the other songs, it was nice to just let go and be like, 'OK, let's sing about other stuff and just have fun here.' I think that gives a nice balance to the record.”
Fitting for an album that both grapples with grief and seeks relief, 1952 climaxes with the mercurial “Fooling Myself,” whose dark, claustrophobic future-soul sound suddenly blossoms into a sunrise-summoning gospel-choir finale. The song’s structure mirrors Geoffroy’s personal journey out of the fog—as he sings, “I wanna stop and smell the roses/Finish what we’ve started.” But it also underscores 1952’s therapeutic value for any listener who’s recovering from a trauma. “I've been getting a lot of messages from young mothers or people that have lost one of their parents,” Geoffroy says. “That's what makes this cool—everyone can can relate. This record is not only about me now.”