Vincent Liben


Guestposter Adrian Arratoon on the one Vincent Liben song that almost got away:

With so much stimulus on and offline, if you close your eyes for more than five minutes it’s easy for things that would otherwise engage you to pass you by. Such is the case with this invigorating track by Belgian artist Vincent Liben, whose track Mademoiselle Liberté, guest starring Filles favourite Berry, made waves a couple of year ago. Last year he sneaked this track, Animalé, out on Soundcloud and YouTube. I know, it’s taken me 15 months to notice it; finger on the pulse, me.

It’s such a cliché to say that some music is “cinematic” but this certainly fits the bill; ominous piano chimes, sweeping strings, shimmering guitars and so on. His music, and that of his band Mud Flow, also appears on the soundtrack for François Ozon’s latest film, Jeune et Jolie. It’s about a young girl who loses her virginity then becomes a call girl: seriously, it couldn’t be any more French if it started shouting at people in a minor traffic jam while wearing a blue and white hooped Breton fisherman’s jersey and a beret. And smoking. Gauloises.

Anyway, this song is epic. Tindersticks epic. Widescreen epic. Better late than never; you’ll love it.


Fredda’s new album


Ah, Fredda. How fondly we remember her smash ‘Barry White’. How we still love her Radiomatic project. And bon dieu, how great is her new album? Well, you can make up your mind about that yourself, for ’tis on Soundcloud. And our German friends of Le Pop jwill release it on cd, next week. With a bonus, a German song called Träume. Yes, Françoise Hardy aficionado’s, this song. BTW, Le Pop released Fredda’s earlier album, L’Ancolie, too. See here.
My favourite track of Fredda’s new album, that has hints of Marianne Dissard, Calexico and La Hardy, is this song.

This is the first single:


Sylvie Vartan 70


Sylvie Vartan is 70 today. Guestwriter Mark Sullivan looks at her unusual origins and early career:
Sylvie Vartan was France’s first true pop star, the first female singer of the rock-and-roll era. She has been performing ever since, having been in the public eye since 1961. Before Sylvie there were no teenage girl singers, just as before Johnny Hallyday there was no rock-and-roll in France.
In a short interview in English in Los Angeles this April, Hallyday explains how he was the first French rock singer, that he modelled himself on Elvis Presley, and that at first he and his writers translated American numbers; then started to write new songs in French.

When record producers looked for girl singers to perform the new music and appeal to the youth market, Sylvie fitted the bill exactly. Born in Bulgaria on 15 August 1944, Sylvie Vartanian was the daughter of a Bulgarian Armenian and a mother, Ilona Mayer, who was Hungarian by descent. In her on-line biography is her description of how she started in entertainment as a child. In 1950, when she was six, “A friend of my father, a director, was making a movie….He gave me a small part as a schoolgirl. I was very young but it had a lasting impression on me. It made me want to work in the entertainment industry. After that, I often dreamed of becoming an entertainer”.

Communist rule in Bulgaria led the family to leave for France – which was possible because her father worked for the French embassy in Sofia. Despite the family living in some poverty in Paris in the mid-50s, Sylvie was successful at school, but wanted to sing and act. Her older brother Eddie had gone into the music business and gave her the opportunity to sing with Frankie Jordan. Film of her first appearance on TV in 1961, ‘Panne d’essence’ with Jordan, survives.
This led soon to more recordings – her first solo recording ‘Quand le film est triste’:

and ‘Est-ce que tu le sais’, the French version of Ray Charles’s ‘What I’d say’:

These very early Sylvie performances now remastered for Youtube show her talent from the start. Then in 1962 Daniel Filipacchi, who ran a radio show by that name, founded ‘Salut les Copains’ as the first French teenage magazine. This gave Hallyday, Sylvie and others the publicity they needed to sell records. One success was the French version of Chubby Checker’s ‘Locomotion’, here in an INA archive recording of a live performance on 27 October 1962, during the Cuba Crisis.
Another example is ‘En écoutant la pluie’ (The rhythm of the rain) in 1963 here, followed by a TV interview.

Then, in 1964, at the height of her success, for the film ‘Cherchez l’idole’, Charles Aznavour wrote for her the song that has accompanied Sylvie ever since : ‘La plus belle pour aller danser’:

The equally well-known classic video of the recorded track, with shots of her meeting the Beatles, is here.

The low, breathy voice, the fine diction, the fashionable dresses and the blonde hair all created an image that put Sylvie ahead of any competitors in her heyday. Sylvie Vartan was the right young woman in the right place when modern pop began.


First Benjamin Biolay video ever


photo_1407430034Everybody has to start somewhere. Benjamin Biolay started with a revolution, that never saw the light of day. Until now. His former record company all of a sudden threw the video for La Révolution online, a song dating back to 1997 that was never released. Maybe for the better, considering the ponytail and the outfits. And the odd voice.
Can’t embed the video, so you have to click HERE to see it.


Les Soeurs Boulay with Isabelle Boulay


Mark writes:

The Boulay sisters, Stéphanie and Mélanie, are, in their words, «de vraies sœurs, mais ni filles, nièces ou cousines d’Isabelle Boulay». But when Isabelle was made one of the ‘coaches’ for the competitors in the 2014 ‘La Voix’, the producers asked the sisters in as guest stars to sing with her their popular hit ‘Mappemonde’ during the final programme:

This unique live performance has the feel of a handover from the old-style 20th century Quebec chanteuses, represented by Isabelle (now 42) to a new and very creative 21st century style represented by Stéphanie and Mélanie.

I have posted the lyric of ‘Mappemonde’ below the Youtube film of the three Boulays, along with an English translation. As we all know now, thanks to Coeur de Pirate’s explanation of her second album title, in Quebec French ‘blonde’ means ‘girlfriend’.

Other recent live performances by the sisters:
* An instant street performance of ‘Cul-de-sac’ in a Montreal alley at Francofolies in June 2013 here
* High up on a Montreal roof overlooking the city this spring here
* And making a parachute jump in matching jumpsuits in May
followed by ‘T’es pas game’ live on landing:


Alfa Rococo


David and Justine (they are Alfa Rococo) prove with this new single that a) Canadians do it better and b) they haven’t lost their touch to write cool pop tunes. New album’s out in September.


Adrien Gallo


BB-Brunes singer Adrien Gallo recorded a solo-album, with heavy 80s influences. And Gainsbourg, as you can see from the clip of his first single:


Josianne Paradis


Apparently it’s been a while since this Blog heard from Josianne Paradis (I had to dig deep into the vaults as far back as 2008!), but the talented Quebec singer-songwriter is back with a brand new EP “De Lorimier.”

Comprising four slices of perfect contemporary adult-pop of distinctly varying styles and moods, the EP opens with the bitter-sweet “Je cherche les mots” – a sad, heart-breaking song that’s all about trying to break-up, yet failing to find the right words – the clarity of Josianne’s always tender, warming vocal delivery adds further poignancy. In a similar vein, “Janvier” is another sombre, plaintive number; The bitterly cold wind of the song whistling down the Avenue De Lorimier (after which the EP is named), acting as a metaphor for a rapidly chilling romance, is arguably the strongest track here.

But as hinted, it’s not all heartbreak and sorrow. “Monsieur Stock” and “Au coeur de toi” offer a complete change of emotions and momentum. The former is everything you want from a memorable stuck-in your head pop tune; all bouncy and up-tempo, punchy lyrics, all wrapped by – shall we just say quelle voix. The latter is light, frothy, an unashamed love song – sweet yet never sickly.

It’d been a long while since Josianne’s last record (2010′s “Nouveautés”), but on the evidence of this EP, well worth the wait…


Feu! Chatterton


A Parisian band namechecking a suicidal English poet who was honoured by Gainsbourg sure grabs my attention. Fierce French rock with classic chanson vibes. Bashung backed by Arcade Fire. Tindersticks on crystal meth, anyone? They count Television, Suicide and Serge G. as influences, when I watch this clip I feel the same excitement way back when I first heard dEUS. Feu! Chatterton are fans of poets like Baudelaire and Aragon, and they dress like dandy’s, with suits and thin moustaches. Suave. More on Soundcloud. Nice French article here. Live radio session here.


Mannekijn vs Stromae


Great discovery by Tess from Het Chanson Offensief: Dutch trio Mannekijn.
Two of the girls, Oukje and Camilla got to know each other via The Kyteman Orchestra (a big group of musicians led by producer Colin ‘Kyteman’ Benders, playing music bordering on jazz, impro, hip hop and even classical), pianist Vera joined later. Oukje sang in various langauges during her classical training, French strikes her as a very poetic language and one that bridges the gap between the days of yore and the modern age.
Mannekijn (Old Dutch word for ‘Little man’) entered the Concours the la Chanson competition in Holland, and sang a version of La Chanson de Vieux Amants (Brel) and a great rework of Stromae’s Papaoutai, shown below. Love those sweeping strings, it’s just as rousing as the original version.
As I understand it from the little interview, Mannekijn wants to sing in Dutch, not in French, but this version will stay on the setlist for a while.