by Ned Raggett
Covering everything from the sole album from Antena the group to 2005's Easy Does It, L'Alphabet du Plaisir is an enjoyable overview of Isabella Antena's lengthy career, covering nearly 25 years of explorations into pop, jazz, bossa nova, and more. Antena's idiosyncratic career isn't nearly as shatteringly chaotic as Björk's, say, and certainly is relatively less well known, but the same spirit of "if it works, try it" applies to both musicians. As such L'Alphabet makes a good introduction for those unfamiliar with her work. There are no rarities for the hardcore fan, but as the judicious sampling covers some of her harder-to-find work as well as more famous choices, including the mysterious, post-punk-shaded take on "The Boy from Ipanema" that first made Antena's name, there's no cause for complaint. Following a generally chronological path aside from the final cut, L'Alphabet lets you hear Antena's winning voice grow in confidence -- from the slight hesitance of "Camino del Sol" to the full-bodied performances on "Eternity" -- without betraying the goal of performing in a joyful crooning style that would have been equally at home in the '60s as much as the 21st century. Tracks like "Le Poisson des Mers du Sud" and "Omerta Bossa" are bubbling joys of gentle groove that suit Antena perfectly, showing once again that not all dance music need be in your face. At the same time, when a shuffling but strong funk beat kicks in halfway through "La Raison du Plus Cool" -- not to mention what could almost be metal riffs buried in the background! -- it's great to see how she uses them as part of her overall approach.