Sophie Hunger

Sophie_Hunger_-_18__c__Augustin_Rebetez_-_300dpi_-_CMJNNe me quitte pas by Jacques Brel; often covered, seldom bettered. Swiss singer Sophie Hunger (whom we know because of this fantastic cover) does a great rendition on her new album The Danger of Light. She keeps it simple, adds a tad more swing to the melody (great trumpet playing too) but leaves the song as it is: a sad story about heartbreak. It’s the first time Hunger recorded the song, but she played it live earlier.

Sophie Hunger – Ne me quitte pas

Siouxsie, Robert Smith, Bruce Cockburn

I’ve been collecting odd Christmas tracks for about ten years (and blogging about it on this blog), and every year I’m surprised about who recorded what. I mean, check this video. 80s Gothic queen Siouxsie Sioux plus part time Banshees-member Robert Smith miming miserably to original French carol ‘Il est né le divin enfant’ (He is born the divine Christ Child). This was a b-side to the Melt!-single in 1982.

And what about Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, best known for his both brilliant and furious If I Had A Rocket Launcher? On his 1993 ‘Christmas’ album he sang ‘Anges Dans Nos Campagnes’ (Angels we have heard on high), a carol dating back to the 18th century:

Bruce Cockburn – Anges dans nos campagnes
Siouxsie & the Banshees – Il est né le divin enfant

C’est Chouette 2012 Yearlist (7)

liminanasDoubtless there have been more captivating years in French music, and actually, it was more a year of single songs than of entire albums. It was a sexy landscape anyway, full of signs and wonders, and populated by so many people finding their voice. Maybe for you as well.

10. Raphaël, Super-Welter. Raphaël’s Chanson pour Patrick Dewaere is one of the most heartbreaking French songs ever. It’s not on this album which obviously deals with his new faible for boxing. Now he sounds like the missing link between Lou Reed, Bowie and Bashung.

Raphaël – Manager

09. Françoise Hardy, L’amour Fou. Always hated her nice girl schlager attitude. She was so much older then, she’s younger than that now.

Françoise Hardy – Rendez-vous dans une autre vie

08. Olivier Bloch-Lainé, Mercredi. I listened to this one about a year ago for the first time, at Vaea’s flat in the Marais, and it has never left me since. Fuck 2012. It’s 1976, so ultra-tender like it’s never gonna be again.

Olivier Bloch-Lainé, Mercredi

07. La Femme, Paris 2012. Surfin’ the asphalt jungle, riotous, juvenile and way cool. Along with Mathieu Boogaert’s Avant que je m’ennuie and Sebastien Tellier’s Cochon Ville video of the year: Say au revoir to the Eiffel Tower.

06. Dionysos, Bird’n’Roll. Mathieu Malzieu doing the Phantom of the Time Warp Picture Show, rollercoaster sonique style, and of course the French never understood what rock’n’roll is about (me neither). The right approach for a grand spectacle.

Dionysos – Sex with a Bird

05. Juliette Gréco, Ca se traverse est c’est beau … Direction liberté. A saint who hasn’t forgotten about la revolution. Adult cinéma including the finest hommage to proto-surrealist poet Guillaume Apollinaire ever written.

Juliette Gréco – Mirabeau sous le pont

04. Daphne, Treize chansons de Barbara. Norman Lebrecht once stated that French chanson legend Barbara was »all about the unsaid«. Daphne’s album is nothing less than a highly intimate approach to the spirit of the animal triste.

Daphne – Gueule de nuit

03. The Limiñanas – Crystal Anis. From Perpignan, Dept. Pyrénées-Orientales: The Limiñanas (see album cover above) throw Morricone, Gainsbourg and Fabienne Delsol in the garage blender and shake it, psychedelic sex groove style. Cool as shit, and featuring the sharpest fuzz guitar around.

The Limiñanas – Longanisse

02. Bertrand Burgalat – Toutes directions. Maybe BB follows one or two routes too many, but the ride includes Bardot’s Dance, an extremely infectious 70s style electro/ disco sweeper, as well as the irresistible Sous les colombes de granit, easily qualifying as one of the premier chansons of the year.

Bertrand Burgalat – Sous les colombes de granit

01. Marie-Pierre Arthur – Aux Alentours. Catchy melodies, gritty riffs and sweet, at times angelic moods. Aux Alentours is a revelation, starting in Reference Alley, but heading straight to Reinvention Boulevard in that Grand State of the Art.

Marie-Pierre Arthur – Chacun pour toi

See you in 2013.

Noël en juin

indexVery few new French Christmas songs this year, in fact I only spotted one: Noël en juin by La Position du Tireur Couché, a band I last heard of in 2005. La Position… is one of the bands on a vinyl-only (but also downloadable) Christmas album released by concert hall La Coopérative de Mai in Clermont-Ferrand. Street address: Rue Serge Gainsbourg! Also on that compilation (among others): Mustang, Cracbooms (with this cover) and The Wendy Darlings. Spotify-link here.

La Position du tireur couché – Noël en juin

Year lists (6)

Sylvester, host of Het Chanson on Dutch Concertzender, is an FS-regular. This is his countdown:

Father Christmas reigns more than ever in France. Patrick Bruel, Johnny Hallyday, Françoise Hardy, Nolwenn Leroy, Salvatore Adamo, Cali, Francis Cabrel, Julien Clerc and many other big names came with new albums in the last two months of 2012. Commercial yes, but artistically not bad. Especially one or two ballads on ‘L’Attente’, of the ageing Johnny (1943) – I wish he would finally give up ‘rock ‘n roll’ and become a full-time crooner. Also good old Adamo at the eve of his 70th birthday surprised with a charming disk: ‘La Grande Roue’, which only just fell out of my Top 10.

10. Dominique A. – Vers les lueurs
Quality songs, quality arrangements, quality band. Too bad I can’t stand the voice of Dominique Ané (1968), but songs like ‘Ostinato’ are irresistible.

9. Marie-Pierre Arthur – Aux alentours
The second album of this rough female bass guitarist and singer from Québec is has a difficult start, but becomes much better from track 4: ‘Pour une fois‘.

8. Stephan Eicher – L’envolée
Demure album of the renowned Swiss musical wizard, perfect for an evening alone, snowed in on the top of a mountain.

7. La Grande Sophie – La Place du fantôme
I like this album of refreshing pop songs, if only because it contains an homage to my favourite medium: ‘Ma radio’.

6. Juliette Gréco – Ça se traverse et c’est beau…

Beautiful concept-album about the bridges of Paris by the 85 year old legend, once the muse of Saint-Germain des Prés. Highlight: ‘Paris se rêve’, a duet with the rapper Féfé.

5. Zebda – Second tour
Successful restart of this multicultural band from Toulouse. Their lyrics are committed but not always directly political. ‘Les deux écoles’, for example, is about the fundamental choice many youngster face when they approach the age of reason: do I want to fill my brains, or my pockets.

4. Ridan – Madame la République
Another committed album which was issued at the eve of the French presidential elections. The single ‘Ah les salauds!’ was banned from French radio, because it left too little to our imagination: ah the bastards!

3. Barcella – Charabia
Cheerful second album of this 30 year old singer from Reims, whose real name is Mathieu Ladevèze. Great lyrics, great voice, great music, very good indeed.

2. Françoise Hardy – L’amour fou
At 68 La Hardy is still the wallflower she was half a century ago in ‘Tous les garçons et les filles’, but much too elegant to be pathetic. Lovely heartbreaking as ever on her latest album; my favourite is the title track.

1. Barbara Carlotti – L’amour, l’argent, le vent
Carlotti has a fantastic voice, which was professionally trained at a conservatory.
Although approaching 40, this is only her 3rd album, after a debut ep in 2005. It’s full of exciting, sonorous and slightly mysterious beauties.

You can hear my favourite tracks on Concertzender Radio: 29 December and
12 January

Year lists (5)

Sami (aka Hot Fidelité) is a man of few words, but excellent taste. His fave songs of the year are:

1-La Grande Sophie “Ne M’oublie pas”
2-Mina Tindle “Pan”
3-Liza Manili “L’Eclipse”
4-Barbara Carlotti “Occupe-toi de moi”
5-Melanie Pain “7 ou 8 fois”
6-Carmen Maria Vega “On s’en fout”
7-Pauline Croze “Heures creuses”
8-Françoiz Breut “BXL Bleuette”
9-Andromakers “La Mer”
10-Laetitia Dana “Courant d’air”

Year lists (4)

And here are Southern California’s “Top Tubes”. The more astute amongst you will note the list is limited to only eight entries, a paucity which says less about the quality of the music, more to the inability of the artists’ recording labels to make their work available here in the States…

8. Mademoiselle Nineteen – Mademoiselle Nineteen

It’s as if Bacharach and David were French and had written “Julliet brillait ” for Mademoiselle Nineteen. This is not to say that Juliette Wathieu is stuck in a 60’s time warp, rather that every gem of inspired pop on her debut album looks forward by looking back (especially in the ye-ye influenced “Dormir le restant de ma vie”). Not unsurprising given that Jacques Duvall (he of last year’s stunning duet with Coralie Clément, “Comme par désenchantement”) and more than 30 years of finely crafted hits behind him, has his finely honed fingerprints all over the album, never more so than on “Quelle importance”. All in all a worthy introduction to this year’s top recommendations.

7. Mylene Farmer – Monkey Me
L’Ange Rouge returns with a new album, is reunited with long-term collaborator Laurent Boutonnat and returns to her musical roots. Then throw in beat-box, synthesisers and add her full sweeping vocal range to haunting ballads (“Elle a dit”, “je te dis tout”), up-tempo dance numbers (“A l’ombre”, “Tu ne le dis pas”) and pure pop (“Monkey Me”). And yes you may argue, it’s just like any other Mylene Farmer album. But that’s the whole point, Mylene has always been equally comfortable as both torch singer and diva, a role that transatlantic artists such as Madonna and Lady Gaga strive to equal… The fact that this album isn’t my automatic number one just reinforces the fact that there have been some incredibly strong releases this year…

6. Porcelaine – La Foire aux Animaux
The promise of Porecelaine’s debut album being a return to “the pomp and spirit of the 70’s”, was viewed with a degree of trepidation. And while “Ange” somewhat reminds me of – yes – 70’s French band Il était une fois, the reality is that this album contains 12 nigh-on perfectly crafted pop gems which allows Montreal-based Melanie Scala ample room to showcase her undoubted Filles Fragiles credentials, one that she and the band pass with flying colours. It’s near impossible to pick out stand-out tracks given the quality of songs on display, but check out the achingly beautiful “Sarracénie” or the sweeping “Machin et Machine” for two examples from this stunning debut.

5. Fanny Bloom – Apprentie Guerrière
2012 was the year that the Fanny Grosjean, the voice behind La Patère Rose, grew up and blossomed. Apprentie Guerrière is a stunning debut album, confident and assured. This is an artist who knows where she wants to go, from the Hammond organ on “Ce que je voudais”, the haunting title track and the pure pop of “Respirer la fumee”, this is, as FS contributor Maks put it, a mature and diverse album. I’d go further. This is a stake in the ground from an artist who could make a significant contribution in the next few years.

4. Wendy Nazare – À Tire d’Ailes
Thank you fellow FS reader David for introducing these ears to this stunning album from Belgium-based Wendy Nazare. Part reflective and introverted on “Quand tu le pourras” or “Une fille de trop”, part pure pop “Tout ou rien” or the expertly crafted “Lisboa”, À Tire d’Ailes is effortlessly put together and as good an album as was released in the second half of the year. Want more proof? If Nick Cave wasn’t such a miserable beggar he’d cover “Ma ritournelle”, without thinking twice…

3. Marie-Pierre Arthur – Aux Alentours
Another year and another Quebecoise (the one without the tats) is faced with the daunting task of how to top her critically acclaimed debut album… Result? In a similar fashion Marie-Pierre Arthur follows up with the absolutely stunning Aux Alentours. The album’s opener, the up-tempo “Fil de soie” has to be track of the year, while “Si tu savais” is as good an example of Quebec country-folk as you’ll hear all year. Showing her new-found maturity, Ms Arthur borrows Iggy’s riff from “Lust for Life”, adds to “Emmene-moi” and makes it her own. Indeed, this was so close to being my album of the year…

2. Ingrid St-Pierre – L’Escapade
Until David (again) sub-consciously told me to check out Ingrid’s L’escapade. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of listening to her voice. There’s a haunting – yes – fragile quality to Ingrid that leads to an aural overdose. From the velvety (sorry) opening track “La chocolaterie” to the pure chanson that is “Coin Liverwort” are just two such beautifully crafted examples. FS regulars will probably latch on to the Fanny Bloom influenced “La planque a libellules”, while the folksy “La coute echelle”is classic Quebec country-folk. But what finally swings the vote for L’Escapade being named album of the year was the fact that no sooner has this album been dissected than I sought out and bought her earlier debut oeuvre Ma petite mam’zelle de chemin, which also comes highly recommended.

1. Les soeurs Boulay – Les soeurs Boulay
But ultimately, note perfect harmonies from Gaspesie’s Boulay sisters, Melanie and Stephanie (no relation to the somewhat better known Isabelle), ensure that their eponymous titled debut wins both this critic’s artist and EP of the year awards. Like a number of their contemporaries, the Quebec-based duo’s sound is tinged with soft country-folk melodies, but stripped bare to just the basics of accompanying acoustic guitar or ukulele (you can never have too much ukulele) means that the girls’ angelic voices are always to the fore, non-more so than on “Lola”.

2012 proved to be a rather successful year for the Melanie and Stephanie. Flush from their exposure in the pages of this very blog, they romped home at the 16th edition of Montreal’s prestigious “Francouvertes” awards and last month signed with Dare to Care / GrossBoite records (home to such FS favourites as Fanny Bloom and a certain Beatrice Martin…). 2013 should see the sisters post a strong contender for album of that year.
Steve in SoCal

Year lists (3)

I’m still in doubt about 2012…If you’d asked me one week ago  what kind of year it was in French music, I would have said “hmm”…
Big names fell short, no album really stood out, no song kept ringing around in my head…
But that was last week. When making this list and going through all the music, it turned out 2012 wasn’t that bad. A lot of talent stood out. So no Françoise Hardy, no Berry, No Pauline Croze, no Daphné, no Barbara Carlotti….but instead:

10 Dawn Landes – Mal Habillée
When one of our French girls releases an album with English songs, we regret it most of the time. But when an American girl has the nerve to release an album with only French songs, I go “Yay!”, and give her a special reward by including her in my year list.
Look here.

9 Buridane – Pas Fragile
A few years ago we heard a few songs from this chanteuse. And then silence…. Nothing more from Buridane, until this year, out of the blue there was here album.
Although we don’t agree on the title, obviously…
Check her video for “Badaboum

8 Céline Ollivier  – La Femme À L’éventail
Sweet surprise on #8. Her name was humming around on the internet for some time and there it was, her debut album “La Femme À L’éventail’, by this classical educated chanteuse. Excellent songs, very pure, and very personal. Listen to one of her songs “Au Flore” here.

7 Amélie Veille – Mon Coeur Pour Te Garder
Never heard about her before this album, but it turned out to be her third. Although it was six year since her last one. Yet another Quebecoise in a year list..Video officiel: ici

6 Céline Mastrorelli – Elle Était Une Fois
Guuzbourg wrote: “A favourite past time is to follow the progress of supersweet singer Celine Mastrorelli. She first popped up on our rader in 2008”, and now she fulfilled our expectations with  “Elle Était Une Fois”. Look and listen here

5 Sophie Vaillancourt – Histoires De Filles Et De Garçons
When I first heard about this album, I had no expectations at all. It looked “poppy”, she was a former of Star Académie participant, so not really things that would appeal to me.
But then I listened to it and was pleasantly surprised. Poppy, yes, but in a folky way and it all sounds very fresh. Top 5 material!
(couldn’t find a video, but here she is singing at her own release party!

4 Mademoiselle Nineteen – Mademoiselle Nineteen
Almost missed this one in my year list, because it was very early in the year when this one came out. Sparkling sixties sound from a girl from Liege. Year lists are good for replays! Here’s the lovely retro clip of “Quelle importance“.

3 Fanny Bloom – Apprentie guerrière
What a surprise this one! And again an example of the wonderful talented pool of singers from Quebec. Won the prestigious Félix de l’Album alternatif de l’année for his album.

2 Lou Doillon – Places
his should be actually my number one..But since the whole album is in English, it makes it difficult to top the list. Since this album gets better by everytime you listen to it, it must be in in the list. (I.C.U. clip here)

1 Melanie Pain – Bye Bye Manchester
When I gave this album a first listening, I was happy and relieved… Yes, this is the kind of music, the kind of voice and the kind of atmosphere that made me a Fille fan. See her perform the title song live ici!

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