About a year ago I discovered Zaz, née Isabelle Geffroy. I played her versatile debut album so much, it became irritable and I had to disband her for a while. For otherwise I’d grow an aversion to French variété and gypsy-songs that would never be cured. Anyhoo, with Zaz’s new album Recto Verso in the shops and summer coming up, it sure is time for some uncut French pop.
The dog’s bollocks of Zaz’s style are her ballads. Sure, she can sing sunny songs like single On Ira or the upbeat Oublie Loulou (Charles Aznavour), but everyone has to be really quiet when the singer seems to start a slow song. ‘Cause Zaz and ballads go together like a horse and carriage. They don’t cause any dental damage because of sweetness – in my humble opinion that is. She chooses not to sing about fluffy lovey dovey stuff, but about the heartache, the despair. Her voice gets rough, the edge is showing. If you listen to a line of those ballads, you suddenly realise how comforting those songs are to you. Check out La Lessive for instance. Or Port Coton, from her debut.
The song Si Je Perds isn’t as tranquil als Port Coton, or as stripped down as Trop Sensible or Si. It’s as compelling as La Lessive, but I call it a ballad because of the melancholy way she’s singing and the sketchy arrangement. When Si Je Perds starts, you just have to listen. With full attention, so turn up the volume, close all windows and doors. Start off fresh. The guitar part makes you want to do this. Zaz’s most compelling talents, her raspy voice and narrative songs, are beautifully combined in this great ballad.
So, phew, tradition is upheld, I can carry on now. With finding out what the hell this song’s about, for instance.
For curator-site Perfects.nl I compiled the ultimate Vanessa Paradis compilation. Deezer- and Spotify-only. Go HERE.
Les Francouvertes is an annual Canadian music festival held in Montreal, which spotlights emerging francophone musical artists. Previous winners that regular readers are probably aware of include La Patère Rose, Chloé Lacasse and last year’s winners Les Soeurs Boulay.
The 2013 finals were held last month and the resounding winners were the New
(or Neaveau) Brunswick trio of Julie Aubé, Katrine Noël and Vivianne Roy, better known as Les Hay Babies.
No mean feat for a band that only formed some 18 months ago, primarily because the girls were sick and tired of competing against one another in numerous regional battle of the bands contests. Realising that three heads are better than one, the girls got together and formed Les Hay Babies at the back end of 2011.
On the back of some solid gigging in both their native Canada and the more enlightened (i.e. francophone) regions of Europe, the band last summer released their debut bilingual 6-track EP through their bandcamp webpage.
The band define themselves as Indie-Folk and the EP is a mix of both French and English language songs, all showcase the girls’ tight harmonies, ably backed by their guitar and ukulele… and banjo plucking (it’s country-folk, after al).
The opener, the plaintive sung-in-English “Horse on Fire”, neatly dovetails into the rasping “Chu pas une femme à marier”, both of which are great folk ballads, separated – or more likely united – by the differing languages. In fact the band switch seamlessly between French and English, often mid-song. It’s nice to hear that the girls askew moderating the French-Canadian accent and pronunciation (although this can present a few challenges!)
There’s more than a hint of Chantal Archambault and last year’s Francouvertes winners (and blog favourites) Les Soeurs Boulay, especially on the plaintive “Obsédée” and whistful “Le bear song.”
The band remain truer to their country-folk roots than some of the compatriots, which may make this EP harder to warm to. Stick with it as it is well worth the effort and appreciate the girls’ vocal harmonisation and finally crafted and beautifully sympathetic songs.
Amongst the prizes, as winners of the Francouvertes, the girls win some quality recording time an distribution of the resulting album. Hopefully this should be available later this year or early 2014…
(Thanks for this guestpost, Steve!)