French girls. They carry mystery like a calling card—an allure diffused only by the studied airs and graces of propriety that govern the bricks and mortar of cities. It is a strict politesse of conformity and classicism that too often overshadows the idiosyncrasies of quirky femininity, and it’s the few who break this enchanted seal who win the hearts of many—unleashing their bohemian spirit upon the masses, throwing caution to the wind and sharing a lust for life and its simple pleasures.
Enter 27-year-old Stéphanie Sokolinski, the waifish, French actress and chanteuse perhaps better known as SoKo. “I had an awareness of death so early in my life… I had a lot of heavy responsibilities and awareness of sadness at a young age,” she muses, in candid explanation of the inspiration behind her latest work, a full-length solo album titled I Thought I was an Alien, an oeuvre flowing with equal parts whimsy and melancholy. It was a labor of love; an odious task to whittle down more than 100 tracks to a mere 14 favorites.
Soko first found success in contemporary cinema. After leaving her hometown of Bordeaux at age 16, the pale, raven-haired beauty found Paris and herself. She attended acting classes in the capital, which have amounted to 13 film roles and César nomination to date, the latter a result of her performance in Xavier Giannoli’s À l’origine in 2009.
When SoKo started to write and record songs, it wasn’t long before her soft, lilting vocals caught international attention. Collaborations with The Go! Team and covers sensation Nouvelle Vague went viral, and her cult hit “I’ll Kill Her” dominated the airwaves from Denmark to Australia in 2007, paving the way for tours with MIA, Pete Doherty and Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell.
Those contemporaries aside, SoKo cites Texas-based singer Daniel Johnston as her musical hero and Ariel Pink as a close friend. She dedicated the song “I Just Want to Make It New With You” to Ariel. “When I write,” says SoKo, “I write a song for someone, like a musical letter or poem, as my way to communicate with them. I’ll write it, record it, and five minutes later send it to the person. It’s like making a present that means something. I don’t think I ever wrote a song for no one. Maybe people think I should censor myself, but I can’t do anything else than something brutally honest and raw.”