Mélanie Brulée

Melanie Brulee1Mélanie Brulée hails from a Francophone family from Cornwall, Ontario. Her debut album “Débridée” is a little bit-retro yet most decidedly fresh in outlook, very definitely fun and also features a stunning version of a song from one of this blog’s favourite chanteuse.

What makes this album really standout though is the way in which Mélanie – who describes her musical style as ‘indie-spaghetti-western-surf-folk-cabaret’ – has taken typically English musical genres – rock and the roots of ‘Americana’, added copious lashings of guitar – mélangé to create something that sounds both incredibly contemporary and most assuredly French…

There’s rock and roll à la française in Astéroïde”, with it’s metronomic beat and tumultuous tumbling coda of guitars, alongside “Obtus” which is as good a song to launch an album as any I’ve heard this year. A quirky love song it’s incredibly retro – full of 60’s surf and tremeloed guitars – insanely cheerful and features a hook so ridiculously catchy that it should be quarantined in an isolation ward.

There’s also weeping steel guitars a plenty as Mélanie borrows from the rich folklore of Americana; the atmospheric “Peur de moi”, contemporary Alt-Country numbers such as “Coeur sauvage” and “Naked” with the latter featuring some very downbeat, trip-hop rhythms (Mélanie is an admirer of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons). And then there are songs where the guitars just take second billing behind the disarming nasal twang and vocal inflections, such as on “Antidote du doute” – which is just such a great pop-song that it leaves you wondering why all pop-songs can’t be as good as this – the imploring and questioning “Qui suis-je” and the distinctive “Merci”.

But finally there is Mélanie’s version of Vanessa Paradis’ “Marilyn et John”. While it is remarkably faithful to the original, the fragility conveyed by her voice so matches the song’s mood – I’ve always liked the song, but I love this version….

“Débridée” is an exceptional album that’s a little bit different and a little bit unexpected, but one that leaves you wanting to hear a whole lot more of Mélanie Brulée…

New Fanny Bloom remix

Just released, a remix of a Pan-track. Now Evidemment is even more upbeat than in it’s original form. Which is nice

New La Grande Sophie single

Mark S., our correspondent on everything LGS, writes:

La Grande Sophie is preparing a new album with concerts starting in autumn 2015. ‘Maria Yudina’ is the first fruit of her work, issued on 8 June as a single and a video.

Maria Yudina (1899-1970) was a Russian musician who interpreted her contemporary the great composer Shostakovich. She was both among the artistic opponents of the Stalin regime and Stalin’s favourite pianist – a record of her Mozart. Piano Concerto no.23 in A major was reputedly spinning on the record player when Stalin was found dead in 1953. Her story is here and here.
An excellent film about Maria Yudina is here (in Russian with English subtitles).

La Grande Sophie’s wide education – she studied sculpture at the Collège des Beaux-Arts at Marseille – make her always interested in unusual creative artists.
The song has some characteristics of LGS’s earlier work before she turned acoustic with ‘Des Vagues et des Ruisseux’ in 2009. The intricate backing with piano prominent at the end shows how her composition skills have moved on from her rock-guitar days. The long instrumental at the end is an LGS specialism – remember ‘Ne m’oublie pas’ and ‘Ma Radio’ on her ‘Place de Fantôme’ album. As always Sophie has perfect diction.

Also just released is the film of LGS and Christine & The Queens duet of Daniel Balavoine’s 1980s classic ‘Tous les cris les SOS’, performed live at the France Inter 50th anniversary concert on 8 December 2013.

I was able to watch this performance in the UK by single-camera live-stream that night, but the film and sound quality is much better on this Youtube version. That concert also included Christine singing LGS’s ‘Sucrer les fraises’ and Sophie interpreting Christine’s then new ‘Nuits 17 à 52′.

The difference in height, which leads to viewer comments below, is magnified (if you look carefully) by Christine (Héloise Letissier) wearing flat shoes and Sophie her ‘talons’. LGS is indeed tall, as I can confirm having met her. She is 5’10”, the same height as Taylor Swift.

Chic Suite Trio

20150530 Chic Street Trio Artwork2It is probably safe to suggest that Gainsbourg’s timeless classic, “La Javanaise” has been featured once or twice before (for example here, here, here and, er, here – not forgetting though the original – and arguably the best).

And now New York Trio Chic Suite Trio have added their own sympathetic, acoustic and jazz-infused twist that will transport you to an intimate Rive Gauche café, where – with the air thick with the waft of Disque Bleu smoke – Gainsbourg’s immortal song permeates every nook and cranny..

The Trio have also covered Zazie’s “Chanson d’ami” – originally recorded for her 1998 album “Made in Love” and while vocalist Caitlin Seager’s vocals may not quite convey Zazie’s range of emotion, clever use of the guitar by Brent Vaartstra and especially the sombre double-bass playing of Wallace Stelzer provide for the air of melancholy and despair.


20150528 Tina-Ève Artwork3And from the conveyor belt of talent that is Québec’s l’École Nationale de la Chanson de Granby comes singer-songwriter Tina-Ève Provost, who has just released her debut album “Dompter la Bête”. Evoking memories of lazy summers of days long-past that were idly spent listening to 80s and 90s French radio, the album offers enough of a modern twist – not to mention a rather compelling voice – to keep everything resolutely fresh.

Exploring themes of inner turmoil – the ‘beast’ of the album’s title – and while on a first listen some of the songs do appear to sail dangerously close to Celine Dion territory (there’s a thick coating of ‘melodrama’ applied to a few of the tracks) – the album is definitely a grower. Dig a little deeper and you realise that you’re actually listening to a stunning example of La Chanson Moderne. It also becomes obvious that there’s a passion and a frightening intensity here. I’m drawn to a comparison at times with a young Chimène Badi (think 2004’s “Dis-moi que tu m’aimes” – an album worth the admission price alone for the stunning cover of Michel Sardou’s “Je viens du sud”)

And while the opening track,”Conne comme une princesse” is indeed slightly melodramatic – the song, a powerful tale of deception and hurt, and which employs sex as a weapon to both subjugate and deceive – receives from Tina-Ève the strong vocal performance it deserves. Indeed from the opening bars it is obvious that she can sing (the phrase ‘Quelle voix’ springs to mind), possessing a voice that holds you mesmerised throughout the ten tracks on this album.

The overwhelming theme is one of melancholy. “San Francisco” and “Meeting” are in many respects both about breaking-up, the former from the perspective of having finally been worn-down; the later from the point of view of exclusion and ultimately emptiness as she sings; “…But you’re right, Everything is perfect, Everything is perfect… For you…” La vie est peut-être belle, but not for Tina-Ève… In fact breaking-up is quite a common occurrence; “Pitou piteux” portrays an air of resignation, but also fortitude. Meanwhile “Il pleut” – for all it’s radio-friendliness – belies the song’s tristesse.

Thankfully and to lighten the mood, love – in several guises – does rear its head. On “Fais moi croire” it is the fear of (falling in) love. This is a slow-burner, you can almost sense the sickening feeling as she ties her stomach in knots. There’s an uplifting refrain, before the doubts return. Meanwhile “Comment gros tu m’aimes?” appears to be asking as to how much is love worth; “…How much do you love me, A five star hotel or motel… a 2 CV or BMW…”, but as the song progresses so pangs of self-doubt and a need for reassurance emerge – yes it’s a song about worth, but it’s that undefinable worth of self-esteem as opposed to any monetary value. Ultimately though, “Dans l’St-Laurent de tes faiblesses” is the album’s love song. All about ‘being there’, the lyrics are reassuring, there’s a softness yet assuredness in the voice, the tempo is up-beat – arguably prime for radio airtime.

Ultimately “Dompter la Bête” is a success because Tina-Ève’s vocals are always centre-stage – at times fragile, angelic, crystalline, fierce, deeply resonant – and because the album’s powerful lyrics demand a voice to match. On that Tina-Ève delivers with some aplomb, none more so than on the disarmingly melancholic “Le vent mauvais.”

Rachida Brakni

Guestpost! Theo M. writes:
Prophet+Premiere+2009+Cannes+Film+Festival+-mCiP1gzjoclRecently Filles Sourires featured the “La chanson d’Hélène” version by Sophie Hunger. She recorded that cover with famous French footballeur Eric Cantona. Well whaddayaknow, Eric’s wife is an actress and singer in her own right. Rachida Brakni sounds almost as saucy on her debut (which was released in 2011) as her husband does in his duet with Hunger. Brakni, who’s of Algerian descent, delivers her songs with a dark mystique. On the album’s opening track ‘Je Danse et je Ris’ (try it on Spotify), and in ‘Terre Fatale’ she proves she masters the Gainsbourgian ‘Sprechgesang’ as well as her husband. Hopefully we will hear more of Mrs. Cantona very soon!

Céline Tolosa

(This guestpost was originally published on the wonderful Lie in the Sound-blog, and written by Christoph/SomeVapourTrails)

Every country has it’s own musical charm, in France it’s the ‘airy Chic’ that’s sprinkled onto songs by chanteuses from every generation. The graceful members of this guild can either sing saucy or sentimental, but in any case the singing floats at least a foot above all earthly things. As is proven by Parisienne Céline Tolosa, whose début-EP was released recently. The four delicate songs on the EP channel the charm from 60s French pop. Even the title track Covergirl precipitates as graceful as profound. Tolosa embodies a cover girl, either a Lolita or Femme Fatale from any glamour magazine. But behind the glittering façade of the Fashion Business lurks the realization that they will one day be replaced, when a slimmer model comes along.
The nice, for predestined humming melody follows with Rue Mansart, a rather moody piano chanson. It includes that special sophisticated French perspective, which is located somewhere between daydream, still lifes and tears in a buttonhole. Tu est fantastique is an airy number full of retro charm. Every French musical stereotype is confirmed here in distinctive ways.
Fais-moi souffrir is more moody. Céline Tolosa is singing with tender melancholy. Can’t wait to hear mme Tolosa on a full length album. Because, honestly, don’t we all need some disarming French lightness from time to time? I know I can.

Paul van Eersel & Stella Zekri

You know Ry Cooder. You might know Ali Farka Touré. You should listen to their marvelous album Talkin’ Timbuktu. Belgian Paul van Eersel owns this moniker, the Belgian guitar player Paul van Eersel sounds like a love child of Cooder and Farka Touré. Folk Afro-Belge is what he makes, indeed he incorporates folk and african influences. In 2012, he released an EP, featuring a VERY cool duet with one Stella Zekri. A song to see the sun set in the Serengeti. I bumped into Paul via Ivan Tirtiaux (see below).
In a few weeks, Paul releases a full album. Check his Facebook for more details. See a teaser clip HERE

Paul just released this video for ‘Du temps’