Julie Blanche

JulieBlanceArtMontréal-based Julie Blanche featured on these very pages last year after she finished runner-up at that year’s Les Francouvertes (the annual French-Canadian music festival which acts as a showcase for emerging francophone artists). Enthusing over her auto-financed EP the overriding thought was that here was not so much a showcase but more of a teaser from an artist that we hoped would grace this blog again…

And now armed with her eponymously-titled debut album it’s probably safe to say that Julie has emerged with an album that should comfortably find a place in any end of year retrospective…

This album comprises ten haunting and melancholy bitter-sweet vignettes, that feel intensely personal and semi-biographical. Every song on this album tells a story, each one an episode imbued with a different emotion and each perfectly framed by the sparseness of Julie’s voice and beautifully counterpoised by the richness of the accompanying melody. Indeed, it’s this richness – that lends an underlying warmth to proceedings – which ensures the album never becoming over-sentimental or maudlin.

To be honest, I’m absolutely blown away by this album, thanks in no small part to the combination of the masterful compositions of Antoine Corriveau (Julie’s long-time collaborator and partner), producer Mathieu Charbonneau. and Julie’s crystalline voice that leaves you hanging on her every word. Every song on this album is truly memorable; “Deux visages”, the opening track and a tale of those conflicting passions, love and hate; “Le manège” and a lover scorned. There’s an underlining menace rippling not far below the surface of “Au bout de la nuit” and “Comme un décor”.

But lest you think the album is hard work, these songs are balanced by the wistful “Le fleuve au complet”, the ethereal “Presque” and the album’s closing number, “La vie facile”, an uplifting reminiscence of a life lived to the full.

This is truly an exceptional œuvre and although I’m pretty certain that I haven’t even began to convey how good an album this is, I’m immediately drawn to comparisons – and I’m not alone here – with fellow Québecoise Salomé Leclerc. There’s the same assured art of story-telling and the same range of emotions conveyed in the voice. Indeed in Francophone Canada the album has received rave reviews and is already being given serious consideration as an album of the year candidate…

Maria Due

10447393_10152737972367326_131955708375634320_nSerge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, Astrud Gilberto, Stereolab, Billie Holiday…we like what sweet voiced Maria Due likes. The Norwegian singer just released a cover album (Lucky Fish) with songs by none of the artists just mentioned. But by The Cure, Canned Heat, Young Rascals and Van der Graaf Generator – not bad. Plus a very soothing French sung version of ‘Martine’ by Louis Philippe, that you can hear below:

See the original here. Thanks Joris Stereo for the tip.

Emma Solal

Emma Solal is a Paris-based chanteuse, whose debut album, Robes du Soir, was released in 2012. Her latest project is an EP of covers of Françoise Hardy songs, produced by Pierre Faa of French band Peppermoon. The EP, Messages Personnels is available on iTunes. For his blog The Widow Stanton, regular FS-contribuant Adrian Arratoon had a (very late) autumn rendezvous with Emma down the line from Paris to talk about her series of shows, the iconic singer, and making Hardy’s songs her own. Read Adrian’s interview HERE

Jean Ferrat tribute

In 2010, Jean Ferrat, aka The Red Bard, passed away. Last week, Des Airs de Liberté was released, a tribute of his songs by artists like Raphaël, Sanseverino and Natasha St. Pier. First single is Aimer a perdre la raison by Dionysos, featuring (of course) Babet. See that single here:

As is often the case with these kind of tributes, it’s a hit or miss affair. Nice versions by Raphael, Julien Doré, Dionysos, rather dull covers by Marc Lavoine, Gregoire and St Pier. Also on this compilation, the duet by Catherine Deneuve and Benjamin Biolay, that was used earlier in the movie Potiche:

Five years ago, Sky wrote this obituary for Ferrat.

Marie-Pierre Arthur

20150222 MPA Artwork2It’s probably safe to say that Marie-Pierre Arthur’s new album “Si l’aurore” has been eagerly awaited in these parts. However, those of you expecting it to follow the familiar well-worn chemin of her indie-rock and folk-tinged predecessors (2009’s eponymous debut and 2012’s break-out “Aux alentours”) might be in for a bit of a surprise…

“Si l’aurore” sees Marie-Pierre take a confident step-back into the past to create an album full of soulful, synthesiser-infused songs that hark-back to the era of late 70’s, early 80’s pop and an apparent love of “yacht rock” (shudders – wasn’t that why we invented Punk)? The single and opening track “Rien à faire” has already garnered rave reviews on these very pages and to these ears there’s more than a touch of the Fleetwood Mac to be detected.

The title track, “Si l’aurore”, is a nailed-on 80’s bluesy, dance-floor smoocher, while “Papillons de nuit” and “Il” sound like 70’s French pop-songs (which since they’re pop-songs – sung in French – probably isn’t that surprising); both are – to my mind – reminiscent of the group Il Était Une Fois.

It should be noted that whereas Marie-Pierre’s previous albums were primarily guitar-led (indeed she’s no mean bassist herself), keyboards are omnipresent here. However those longing for the Marie-Pierre of old should find comfort and solace with “La toile”, a fine contemporary pop-rock song, while “Cacher l’hiver” is an irresistible up-tempo number that could have quite easily been recorded during the sessions for “Aux alentours”, save there’s just a hint of the Stevie Nicks in the refrain (there’s those Fleetwood Mac references again).

Arguably though the most ambitious song on the album – and at a little over 6 minutes, also the longest – is “Comme avant”, which mixes her indie-folk past with the soft rock sound that she has encapsulated on this album. The retro-vibe is deliberately throttled back and for the first couple of minutes you could be mistaken that you’re listening to an out-take from her earlier albums… And then about half-way through, the mood suddenly changes; the song fades to simple piano and vocals interlude that ultimately climbs and soars… Just as it reaches a crescendo, it breaks-out into the most uplifting of saxophone solos (curtesy of Yannick Rieu) and a cacophony of keyboards and percussion. It’s an absolutely stunning composition and arguably amongst the best she’s recorded.

“Si l’aurore” is a good album, but it isn’t perfect. The lines between homage and cheesiness tend to become blurred and anyone expecting an album along the lines of Marie-Pierre Arthur’s earlier offerings might be disappointed. However, it’s still mighty fine and more than worth a listen…

Coeur de Pirate at Massey Hall

Mark Sullivan writes:

Massey Hall, Canada’s most prestigious music venue (in Toronto), which dates from 1894, hosted Coeur de Pirate on 31 May 2014. A 28-minute film of highlights of her concert has now been released on-line.

Any one who doubts that Béatrice Martin is the supreme writer and performer of popular music in her generation should look at this. Shot in black-and-white from several angles, and with perfect acoustic recording, this film takes us far beyond the thousands of amateur recordings of CdP that crowd Youtube. As amateur filming was not permitted, this is a unique record of a completely professional performance, with elegant bilingual introductions. It is so good that one can only hope that the full concert, which must have included as many songs again, will be issued on DVD.

There is a voice-over by Béatrice at the start, and the audience is seen entering over the sound of the first track. The songs shown are

Le Long de large
Francis
Ensemble
Golden Baby
Adieu
Place de la République
Comme les Enfants

Berceuse is played over the closing credits.

It is notable that (as the credits show) Coeur de Pirate has kept all four of her band for the whole six years of her career so far – Renaud Bastien, rhythm guitar (her lead musician), Emmanuel Éthier, lead guitar, Alexandre Gauthier, bass, and Julien Blais, drums. No wonder the quality is so high.

Stephanie Blanchoud

Stephanie Blanchoud is a Swiss-Belgian actress who released one album and an EP, but somehow managed to stay under the all-seeing eye(s) of this blog. Her new album’s on the way, this is the first single featuring Belgian superstar Daan, who sounds a bit like Bryan Ferry in this duet. Cool video too:

Listen to snippets of the upcoming album HERE