Dan & Alice Lacksman

Dan Lacksman. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, check out your record collection. Is Patrick Hernandez’ Born to be Alive there? Dan played keyboards on that. Is there an album by Belgian synth-popband Telex? Dan was a member. You know Lio’s Banana Split? Dan co-produced. Read the guy’s biography, here. Amazing, eh? Mr Moustache just released a charming album with synthesized pop, featuring a duet with his daughther Alice. Reminiscent of Lio (Jacques Duvall’s also present here), of Pizzicato 5, of The Lovers. Which is nice.

Peppermoon

top_interview_with_peppermoonPeppermoon is a band from Paris, that references to anything between Jane Birkin, Marie Laforet and a whole bunch of French poets, but in reality it’s Pierre Faa’s (aka Peter McFaa) world. The audience and singer Iris just live in it. Prismes, the third album, is just out With songs about Pierre’ stepsister (Frère et soeur), about how P. loves how Paris is empty in the summer (‘Fermeture Annuelle’) and yes, about sex. Pierre explains the song ‘Je te veux’: ‘I feel no opposition between spiritual love and sexual desire, they can have a dance together. Physical attractions are also lessons to be learnt. A passionate love is a self-discovery trip, especially when it doesn’t come easy and smooth. Wisdom may come from the most unexpected places. Why not the skin of someone you love ? It polishes your soul. ‘I want you, I want you, my plane happily flies in an iridescent saturated blue sky. I want you, I want you, you are my luxury good… and may be I even love you.” (Read more about the new songs on Peppermoon Facebook, HERE)
‘Je te veux’ may not be the poetic highlight of the new album (‘Arc-en-ciel-esque’ and the very Gainsbourgian ‘Chlorofille’ take that crown), it’s a hit. Catchy, well-sung, it tickles the right spaces ‘n places. Let’s call it a luxury good.

Edith de Camargo

Edith de Camargo is a Swiss-born singer, currently operating from Brazil. Her new, third, album is out featuring lavishly arranged chansons. There’s a video for Comme Un Rendez-Vous that’s either an ode to, or a parody of the nouvelle vague films. You decide.

Marianne Bel

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Quebec, we love you baby. Here’s yet another reason.
Twenty-something singer-songwriter Marianne Bel (real name Beaupre Laperriere) comes from a very musical family who has wisely decided to pen some rather serious chansons and canciones. Having been both a finalist and showered with awards at several musical festivals, both in her native Quebec and France, she released her debut album “Le Balcon” earlier this month.

Even upon the first listen it is obviously apparent that here we have yet another extremely talented French-Canadian singer-songwriter who, similar to a number of her Quebec-based contemporaries, has not only been unafraid to blur the boundaries of different musical genres, but also pulled-off the end result with seemingly effortless aplomb.

The accompanying sleeve notes describe an album that converges folk, jazz and poetry; and those aforementioned musical notes are immediately detectable in spades – there’s a nice symmetry to the composition and structure of the album. The unashamedly country “Le pans de rideau” has a detectable jazz undercurrent, while guitar, violin and banjo ensures that the album’s folklorique roots are to the fore on both “Les couilles” and the album’s title track.

The album’s opener “Blanc et noire” is a perfect example of the statement this album is making – think Zaz with a simple double bass laying down the back-beat and waiting until the horn section really kicks in. I suspect that renowned economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman just might like this.

The reference to Zaz is quite deliberate, because in a similar vein, Marianne Bel is first and foremost a bona-fide chanteuse who sings proper chansons, as she ably demonstrates on “L’aveugle et le mime”. It’s also obvious from even a cursory listen to this album reveals a vocalist equally at home with a multitude of different styles – jazz, country, folklorico, simmering ballads or toe-tapping pop songs.

However, it’s probably fairer to say that this album is a far more ambitious affair. The atmospheric “Prisionero”, sung note-perfectly a cappella style in Spanish, is an achingly beautifully lament which shares several roots with its Iberian counterpart fado, (frankly, I’m trying desperately to convey how haunting this song is – it’s a bit of a favourite), while the horns on “Les outardes” add a real flavour of Mexico and mariachi, providing a tease of Latin culture that occasionally surfaces throughout the album.

In sharp contrast, “Dagmar” sees Marianne turn her hand to a nigh-on, unashamed, perfect (and wickedly racy) pop song – all fellow Quebecer Marie-Pierre Arthur meets Feist in an incredibly uptempo and catchy of choruses kind of way.

A mention has to be made to the great production qualities that are apparent throughout the album – especially the vocal mixing. By the second track, “Jour de page”, you’re starting to get an inkling of the shear breathless, effortless style and dynamic range of Marianne’s voice – the vocals soaring over another light jazz-tinged slow-burner of a song. Meanwhile on the aforementioned “Les outardes”, the resulting multi-dubbed vocal chorus offers favourable comparisons to those sweeping angelic harmonies that have become the Boulay sisters‘ trademark.

It’s actually hard to believe that this polished and professional album is Marianne’s debut offering. There’s a maturity and assuredness far beyond her tender years on display here and is more than worth a listen.

(If you hadn’t guessed already, this is a guestpost by Steve)

Deux Amours Redux

gotyoucovIn 2002, Madeleine Peyroux – not exactly a French citizen, but from Athens, GA – met harmonica player & multi-instrumentalist William Galison in a bar on Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, NYC, and they began a stormy on and off relationship that didn’t last all-too many moons. Testament to their affair is the extraordinary collaboration Got You on My Mind, released in the late summer of 2004, only a week before the release of Peyroux’s breakthrough album Careless Love, and finally subject of an extended series of lawsuits between the ex-lovers respectively their record labels. It gets even more complicated: Careless Love featured a nice mid-tempo version of the French classic J’ai deux amours, but the better adaptation undoubtedly is the one on Got You on My Mind. Galison in the liner notes: »Josephine Baker made this song a hit in 1930. It speaks of being torn between two beloved homes; her new one in Paris and her old one on ‘La Savanne’ of Africa. Madi, who lives between New York and Paris, changed the word ‘Savanne’ to ‘Manhattan’ and sings of a similar plight.« And even if Madi and Bill finally took the route to Desolation Boulevard, this is heart-shaped heaven, as intimate and infectious as it gets, and chock-full of joie de vivre.

William Galison & Madeleine Peyroux – J’ai deux amours

Axelle Red, en direct

‘What is it with fairytales, men in those stories always want to leave, to fight dragons, to go on adventures. And when they get back, they get a princess.’ Axelle Red giggles. The Belgian redhead giggled a lot during her showcase in Amsterdam People’s Place. Been a long time since Fabienne Demal (Axelle’s real name) was in the Dutch capital, she herself thought she played the Paradiso in 1994. Yes, Axelle’s a mainstay, and it showed yesterday. Solid band, strong voice (yet she’s a fille sourire), self-assured performance and self-depricating jokes. And a body of work that contained hits like Sensualité, Le monde tourne mal and Rester femme – the latter was one of the highlights of the show. ‘French soul’ is the name of one her albums, and pouring her heart out over Muscle Shoals-styled music with hints of chanson is exactly what Axelle does. You can dance to it, you can listen (when she played two acoustic songs, Je t’attend being one), you can smile, you can get beguiled by her smile. Rouge ardent was the last song she played, the title track of her last album. She’s been making albums since 1993, and said yesterday a new one’s coming up. She’s not planning to leave, our redheaded princess.

Sally Folk

sally-folk-carrousel-4-minSally Folk is Quebecoise with a Algerian dad, who sports a beautiful fringe and has a thing for corsets, firebrigade lipstick and petticoats. She started off in English, making a 50’s style rock’n doowop album (listen here, see a video here), that drew attention of producer Marc Dery. I’m not sure, but my guess is that Dery turned Sally to French, cut back on the 50s music and added a more sophisticated neo-Sixties style. Her new album is just out and contains a few great songs. It feels like the last Coeur de Pirate album was a big inspiration. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. See the video for Sally’s current single here. Listen to snippets of her album here.

Sally Folk – La crosse

La // Plage

There’s very little known about La // Plage, a female-fronted four-piece hailing from Liège, Belgium. See a picture here. They’re called Flore, Nico, Loïc & Mike. Backgrounds? Forget it. There’s also a band called La Plage from Bruxelles, confusingly. But this La // Plage is drawing more attention, thanks to their wonderful single Rendez-Vous. They name Justin Timberlake and France Gall as influences, and kicked off with a great remake/remix of Phoenix’ Trying to be cool (arguably the best track on Phoenix’ last album). Rendez-vous is an English song, but there’s a little French lyric at the end – hopes are high for a full French track.
You know what they say, as a band you start by imitating your heroes, then find your own style. Now, of course, it’s just one single, but mon dieu, the future of La // Plage is so bright, I gotta wear shades.