Best of 2014 (Part 7)

MusiqueFrancoWhat actually constitutes a “French” song? I thought about this while perusing an article in the French-Canadian blog L’Animateur Culturel! which – correctly – defines a French song as one that is performed in the language of Molière and not – as it is often incorrectly described – a style.

For me – a Francophone Englishman and someone who passionately believes that a great song actually transcends language – a great French song is actually a great song that just happens to be performed in French. Conversely, I’m not just going to love a song just because the artist happens to be performing the song in French… There has to be a certain “je ne sais quoi” in the first place to whet the appetite.

And because I’ve already decided that it’s a great song, whatever the particular genre (be it pop, alt-rock, indie, folk, etc… depending on what is rocking my particular boat) it is always going to stand comparison against any song, irrespective of language…

“La musique en français c’est n’est pas un style de musique. Y’a de tout en français!” (“Music in French is not a style of music. They are all in French!”)

So when it came to selecting a song of the year – which in many respects is actually far easier than choosing an album (you’re looking at one moment of sheer brilliance as opposed to a degree of consistency over a number of tracks) – I was looking for that one moment that not only perfectly encapsulates the artist, but also would stand shoulder to shoulder with any other song in a similar category that was released this year…

201412xx Filles Sourires ArtworkI’d actually got a short-list of three(!), but ultimately – and having long bemoaned the dearth of innovative French (or french-Canadian) indie-rock artists – there can be only one song of the year.

Hôtel Morphée’s “Dernier jour” is a dark and deliciously subversive thumping alt-rock tune; all pounding drums and repetitive bass overlaid with Laurence Newbornne’s gorgeous rasping, sultry vocals… And then the refrain kicks in, the vocals soar, imploring, there’s a ferocity – at times animalistic edginess here… All of a sudden those trademark syncopated rhythms of orchestral strings are centre-stage. The song literally explodes between the ears… and then it’s gone… replaced by silence… the heart is still pounding…

Best of the Best (part 6): Nevche

Regular guestposter Adrian Arratoon goes back to his fave track of the year, by Nevche. And looks forward!

Vas-tu freiner? by Nevche was my track of the year, from their Retroviseur album. A haunting, nocturnal, poetic track that was utterly beguiling. The bit where the slightly discordant riti, or Senegalese violin, comes for the first time in was probably the moment of the year in French music for me. The rest of the album is pretty much essential listening too.

2015 already looks bright, listen to the first single of a new album (released next year) by Dominique A:

Best of the Best (part 5): Mina Tindle

Regular guestposter Mark Sullivan picks an exceptional track by Mina Tindle
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Mina Tindle’s new album ‘Parades’ hides within it a dance track which must be among the best of 2014 in any language. At Mina’s one appearance in Britain, in London in November, ‘The Curse’ was unknown to most of us the audience until it suddenly began, rather different from her classic style. We stood mesmerized by this unnamed tour de force, with its great instrumental middle part. When Mina (Pauline de Lassus) signed my CD afterwards, I asked her what this extraordinary track was, and she wrote the name for me.

‘The Curse’ is about the idea of rebuilding a relationship (‘Let’s go back to where it felt right’) but then deciding not to (‘And you won’t be around, It won’t hurt so bad’), with the title taken from one line, ‘Magic or curse, I don’t regret’. As a dance track, it deserves a wide audience.

‘The Curse’ is the key song in Mina Tindle’s elegant ‘Green Lagoon’ filmed session, preceded by ‘Pas les saisons’, the much-admired ‘I command’, and ‘Ā Seville’. (Four of the tracks on ‘Parades’ are in English, eight in French.)
‘The Curse’ starts with a run-in at 15m55s. Or watch the song by itself here. Steffen Charron, her bass guitarist, who plays in the film, told me that they were amazed at the perfect location, a restored sand quarry turned nature park just 60 km south of Paris.

A well-filmed performance by Mina of ‘The Curse’ at this July’s FNAC Paris concert is here. It starts at 3m25s after ‘Pas les saisons’. The full set at Paris (40 minutes) is also on YouTube. She does 8 songs: Bells; Ā Seville; Lovely day; Madonne; Too many small things; I command (at 21m35s); Pas les saisons; The Curse (30m56s to 36m00s)

For the background to ‘Parades’ see Mina’s website page. ‘Le Figaro’ now calls her ‘la plus anglophone des chanteuses françaises’.
As if to prove it, here she is singing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on fire’ in Paris last month

Two interviews in English from 2012 (here) and 2014 (here) tell us more about Mina’s background and career. And she is in person charm itself.

Best of the Best 2014 (part 2)

What a good year for the filles! ”But you can only pick one”, Guuz godfather of Filles Sourires told us. So here it is, not random chosen of course, but taken from the outstanding album Lunes by this beautiful freckled girl from Canada, Chloé Lacasse. A track that completely fulfilled its promise after the auspicious intro, just as the whole album does: Renverser la Vapeur.

Chloé Lacasse – Renverser la Vapeur