• Photo by Edgar Martin

    One of this writer's favorite recess activities as a kid was to belt out SWV and En Vogue tunes with a couple gal pals on the playground. We preferred singing "Whatta Man" to playing on the monkey bars. The '90s were rich with femme R&B groups, musical musketeers who harmonized for love and solidarity. But somewhere around the breakup of Destiny's Child, that binding force in the genre dissipated. Groups were abandoned for larger-than-life solo careers (Queen Bey, we're looking at you!). In an era of MYSpace - emphasis on the "my" - the whole became less important than the sum of the parts.

    Canada's Chic Gamine turns the clock back to a time when four- and fivesomes gelled into one powerful entity. The lineup rotates lead singers, with sole male member Sacha Daoud handling the tender beats. The vocalists mimic bass lines and spacey arpeggios, singing in English and French. Their engaging and toe-tapping melodies have brought them great acclaim, opening for legends like Smokey Robinson and collaborating with Mavis Staples.

    From the gospel stomp of "Shake Off Your Worries" to the mournful march of "Don't Think That I Can Stay," Andrina, Alexa, Ariane and Annick deliver a meltingly gorgeous brand of R&B that's both timely and timeless. Their first U.S. release, Closer, is out now on Lucky Fox Records.

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