Time to round things up, the best and worst songs, shows and albums of the year. The staff of Filles Sourires (Sky, FransS, Maks, me) will post their personal lists in the upcoming days. I’ve asked several guest-contributors and Friends of FS (FOFS) to compile a year list too. One of the FOFS e-mailed me that he was quite disappointed of 2011, French music-wise. And I have to agree. When I go through older posts, it seems like we’ve been posting almost exclusively about Coeur de Pirate, the Gainsbourg family and Benjamin Biolay. Ahem.
That said, I did hear some exciting, fresh and sultry sounds. Here goes:
1. Coeur de Pirate – Blonde. This blog was there every step of the way, it seems. In summer it was Armistice, the mariachirock-project of Bé and Jay. Then came the long (well, several months) wait for what promised to be the bestest French album of the year. La Martin did not disappoint. Blonde is a retrofied, country-and-mariachi’d string-fest. Killer songs, killer production, killer lyrics. On December 4, me and FransS will attend the celebration of CdP’s magnificent talent, when she will KILL the Brussels AB-concert hall. No prisoners!!
2. Brigitte – Et vous, tu m’aimes? Ever since I heard the beatific Battez-vous, I fell in love with quirky Aurélie and Mayane. Their first album is full of sexy odball songs, some in English, most in French. Catchy, weird-but-good, I wonder what they’re going to do next.
3. Charlotte Gainsbourg – Stage Whispers. This will come out next week, I got a promo and I got hooked. It’s a bits’n pieces-album, with leftovers, livetracks and new(-ish) songs. Charlotte’s leftovers are more exciting then the coverversions of Serge’s songs by half-brother Lulu. Listen to Paradisco for instance.
4. Austine – Le calendrier. I didn’t play this as much as I should’ve, for it’s everything this blog stands for: Lolita-voiced, gorgeous girl sings intimate, piano-driven songs about love and life. Austine needs more attention.
5. Salomé Leclerc – Sous les arbres. Honestly, I think Les Quebecoises made a bigger impression on me as an avid listener of French music than their French counterparts. Coeur de Pirate is hors categorie, this melancholy babe is destined for great things. Her album isn’t a five-star affair like CdP’s first big bang, but I songs like Volcan and Partir Ensemble take my breath away. Also from Quebec, also impressive this year: Chloe Lacasse, Catherine Major, Caracol.
(Close, but no cigar: Mélanie Laurent, Claire Keim, Elsa Kopf, Poney Express, Camille, Yelle, Claire Denamur)
There can be only one. Sure, the dvd in the magnificent Histoire de Melody Nelson box lacks the clips, but they’re all on Youtube and on earlier SG-dvds. What counts is the fantastic booklet, the documentary, the outtakes. Worth the wait, worth the dough.
Songs ‘n singles (male and female)
Albums by French singing guys that impressed me? Err…there was Thomas Fersen’s Je suis au paradis, Thomas Dutronc’s Silence on tourne, and then my mind goes blank. A few songs ‘n singles did make a lasting impression:
1. Thomas Marfisi – Les filles commes toi. Britpop, French-style. Very catchy. Looking forward to that album
2. M & Vanessa Paradis – La seine. Didn’t see the film, but this track of animated movie Un monstre a Paris is as good as earlier teamups of M and Nessa.
3. Keren Ann – Je fume pour oublier que je bois. Bestest track on the Alain Bashung tribute Tels Alain Bashung. Keren was involved with several projects this year. And then there was her own album, which failed to impress me. But this danceable cover is very noteworthy.
4. Mighty Mocambos & Caroline Lacaze – Physique. Funkiest funk I heard all year.
5. Benjamin Biolay & Chiara Mastroianni (aka HOME) – D’un rive à l’autre. A LOT of tributes were released last year, the one for Jacno was by far the most interesting one. This duet, between former lovers Ben and Chiara, was one of the highlights.
6. Nicolas Comment – Nous étions Dieu. Gainsbourg, produced by Martin Hannett, I wrote in January. Heavy bass, booming voice, great hook.
7. Philémon Chante – J’arrive toujours un peu trop tard. Canadian singer goes to Cuba to record his ironic, yet compelling songs, with a Cuban accent. Nice.
8. Charles Aznavour – Va. From his most recent, and hopefully his last album. The voice is gone, the starpower is still there. Toujours doesn’t sound like an epitaph, more like a celebration. Take a bow.
9. Lescop – La Foret. I know very little about this guy. I do recognise a brilliant track when I hear one.
10. Miles Kane – The Responsible. Not French, but a cover of a classic Dutronc-track, well done by a Britrocker who’s a big fan of French 60s pop.
Remember Dave? The Dutch-born, blue-eyed singer had a massive hit in the 70s with a discofied version of Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade (watch!). In France, he was major star, but as it goes with names from the past, they fade away. Somebody made the connection of his blue eyes and soul, called in the team behind Ben L’Oncle Soul and the album Blue-Eyed Soul! was born. Is it good? No. Music-wise it’s okay. Rehashing Del Shannon’s Runaway or Rubettes’ Sugar Baby Love in French, wearing a very thin soul-jacket is far from okay. But a re-recorded version of Dave’s ballad Il ‘y a pas de honte à être heureux with Françoise Hardy is worthy of a post on this blog.
Dave & Francoise Hardy – Il ‘y a pas de honte à être heureux
Last time one of Thomas Bohnet’s French pop-compilations was reviewed on this blog, the atmosphere in the comments turned a little sour. Alas. So let’s what happens now. First off, one has to applaud Bohnet’s tenacity. It’s his 6th survey of new(-ish) French pop in a time where compilations aren’t top sellers any more and where the non-French excitement about French pop has worn down. His French parties are still running, from 2000 on. A big hand, if you please!
Second, though Bohnet certainly isn’t deaf for new sounds, you know you’ll find reggae-fied and balkanised chansons on his compilations. Because they’re good to dance too, because it’s Thomas’ taste. Though I love (roots-)reggae and ska, I find songs who inject Jamaican influences hardly exciting. Maybe I’ve been listening to too much Spanish rock mestizo in the late 90s and balkan beats in the early 2000s. That means I’m aloof to the songs by Romain Latelin, Acorps de Rue and Nôze. The latter, also present on one of my Filles Fragiles-comps (with a far better song), lean to electro-swing, a genre that’s very popular in France but to me it is an overused mould, tending to banality.
But wait! No! This isn’t another grilling of a Le Tour compilation! Where T. and a disagree on the use of Jamaican and Balkan rhythms, we share a passion for strong females, who sometimes sound like they’re little girls. Lisa Portelli‘s on Le Tour #6, Ariane Brunet, Maryse Letarte, Vanessa Chassaigne, Elsa Kopf – girls who appeared on this very blog and pretty words were used to describe them. And their songs. Also on #6 is my good friend Pierre Faa, with a very, very good song. But German funkateers The Mighty Mocambos do take the biscuit. Fronted by French singer Caroline Lacaze, ‘Physique’ is in the immortal words of George Clinton, The BOMB!
When you visit this blog, you know what you’re gonna get: soft sighing girls, the occassional guy and lots and lots of Gainsbourg-covers. When you buy Le Tour #6, you’d expect danceable French tunes, some girls and new artists that only Thomas knows about – I consider myself ‘in the know’ about French music, but Thomas always manages to surprise me by digging up talented debutants, like Erwan Pinard and Raspail, for instance. So there. Le Tour #6 doesn’t disappoint! Oh, and another thing Thomas, where the HELL do you find the gorgeous girls who pose for your cd-covers?
We’ve been singing praise of stunning blonde Vanessa Contenay-Quinones for years (see?), and ever since we met her we know she’s a hard act to follow. Italian Star Academy-contestant Vivi Calderone took a shot. She covers VC-Q’s Bon Bon Bon as her first single. There’s a sexy video (if you like girls with heavy make-up), they kept the music and Vivi’s voice is as girlie als Vanessa’s. Very nice try, but when push comes to shove, we prefer the real thing.
Vivi Calderone – Lui ci fa palpitare il cuore (Bon Bon)
Vanessa Contenay-Quinones – Bon Bon Bon
The Best of Benjamin Biolay is out now, featuring one inédit. Solid tracklist, though I’m not a fan of that electronically enhanced version of Los Angeles, and I would’ve include Little Darlin’ (from Négatif) and the Lendemains-duet with Françoise Hardy. Still, this Best Of is an impressive body of work, it confirms his status as one of France’s greatest songwriters. He should be one of Europe’s best loved artists, in my opinion. How can you NOT love a guy who wrote songs like La Superbe, Les cefs volants, Négatif and La ballade du mois de juin? In 2008 I made a mix of inédits and songs BB wrote or produced for others.
Shall I re-up that? You can download that from HERE (Wetransfer-link)
Benjamin Biolay – L’eau claire des fontaines
Earlier this year Tom Waits gave multi-instrumentalist David Coulter his permission to reinterpret his masterpiece Rain Dogs from 1985. Coulter, who worked with Waits on The Black Rider (1993) formed an outstanding band with singers such as Arthur H., Camille O’Sullivan, Stef Kamil Carlens, The Tiger Lillies, Erika Stucky and special guest Jane Birkin. Quite some reasons to go and see this extraordinary gig in Eindhoven yesterday. And after all, there’s simply no reason to not go and see Jane B. whenever she’s around. Unfortunately the show started late due to heavy fog as a result of which a lot of visitors arrived too late and so did some musicians. But as the show finally started, Jane Birkin was still stuck in foggy Rotterdam and unsure whether she would make it to Eindhoven, so announced the ringmaster. Fingers crossed, show starts.
First the beautiful Camille O’Sullivan came on stage with a raw and exiting performance. Seductive and mean she took us to ‘Singapore’ and Waits was immediately forgotten (sorry Tom). O’Sullivan was followed by The Tiger Lillies who probably shook Waits songs the most this evening with their pretentious interpretations of ‘Diamonds & Gold’ for instance. Kurt Weill wasn’t far away when they were on stage and that’s not always a good thing. Luckily Erika Stucky came to bring annoyment to the next level. In a positive way that is. The Swiss singer with her vocal tour de forces intrigued and made the show a bit less serious. Time to bring Stef Kamil Carlens, frontman of Belgium indie rock group Zita Swoon, on stage. He truely convinced with a couple of great songs like ‘Downtown Train’ and an outstanding version of ‘Blind Love’.
As the show continued with The Tiger Lillies again, I slowly started worrying whether Jane would show up in Eindhoven or not. Right then, miss O’Sullivan came on stage again and treated us with a marvelous and extreme tempting, hoarse version of ‘Hang Down Your Head’. The way we like it most over here at FS.
After that French singer Arthur H. could do his thing. The man with the raw voice that sometimes comes pretty much close to Tom Waits was bland and taking with his interpretations. A cool performer.
And then, finally, Birkin came on stage too. She defied and conquered the Dutch weather and was charming as ever as she started ‘Alice’, which is not a Rain Dogs track actually, but from Waits’ 2002 album, written for the play Alice. After that, she asked Arthur H. back on stage to do the last song on this very special Rain Dogs Revisited night: ‘Time’. This song turned into a very intimate and moving duet, worth ending the show with. And I still found no reason to not go and see Jane B. whenever she’s around.
Camille O’Sullivan – Hang Down Your Head (London, 13-07-2011)
Erika Stucky – Union Square (London, 13-07-2011)
The Tiger Lillies – Diamonds and Gold (London, 13-07-2011)
Stef Kamil Carlens – Blind Love (London, 13-07-2011)
Jane Birkin – Alice (Eindhoven, 20-11-2011)
Arthur H. & Jane Birkin – Time (Eindhoven, 20-11-2011)
Dear Béatrice not only made a great second album, she’s spoiling the fans with extra tracks and collaborations. Out since today is her version of White Christmas (in French) as a guestvocalist of Michel Legrands Christmas-album. Sweeping! By the way, if you like heavily tattood, husky singing Canadian females, head over to Christmas-a-gogo and pick up a fuzzy seasonal song by Jody Glenham. Furthermore, I discovered that CdP sang a cover of Buddy Holly’s Everyday for a Canadian Activia-ad. Downloadable for free via Facebook, but I’ve made it easier. And finally a gorgeous bonustrack off of the Blonde-album, in which she namechecks Serge and Jane.
Coeur de Pirate – Everyday
Michel Legrand & Coeur de Pirate – Noel blanc
Coeur de Pirate – Prince-Arthur
French music giant Michel Legrand made a Christmas-album, with featured guests like Jamie Cullum, Mika and Carla Bruni. It’s released in two versions, one with the best-known international stars (Iggy Pop too), one with more French singers, like Olivia Ruiz and Coeur de Pirate. Shame. The track with Carla Bruni isn’t the stand-out song on the album, yet it will gather the most attention I guess. So here it is. The orchestra sounds great, Carla should refrain from trying to sing – her whisper is good enough. For me, at least. The song by the way is a cover of a seasonal track by Michel Fugain from 1975.
Carla Bruni & Michel Legrand – Jolis sapins