Yearlists (4)

alkabalbir1. Alka Balbir – La Première Fois
The absolute number one for me this year. If I only had a Twitter account on which I would have tweeted something about newbie Alka Balbir, it surely would end something like this: #perfect #melancholic #exciting #thrilling #delicate #passionate #hoarse #fragile #debut
Alka – La Vie Par Les Deux Bouts

2. Axelle Red – Rouge Ardent
The biggest surprise of 2013. In fact I gave up hope that the Belgian redhead would record an album that could fully blow me away in all its aspects, but somehow pieces fall into place on this ninth album. And after seeing her exciting gig in Ghent, Belgium last month, I was finally convinced: Axelle has it all. At last.

3. Vanessa Paradis – Love Songs
Contrary to Axelle Red, Vanessa Paradis almost can’t do wrong with every new release. Love Songs might not be the blast ‘Divinidylle’ was, it still stands out easily among all the other releases this year. Miss Paradis is a FS-fav on long stay and my guess is that it’ll stay that way.

4. Pendentif – Mafia Douce
I’m not used to putting a dance album in my yearlist. But sometimes things can no longer be ignored. Pendentif recorded a most perfect post-summer soundtrack to lighten up the days at this time of the year and completely caught me with it. I actually put on my dancing shoes. Well, at least while writing this.

5. Sandie Trash – Salve Regina
An intruder in this years yearlist? Is it delicate, subtle, tender or sensitive? Hell no. Is it loud, wild and uncontrolled? Hell yeah! And I like it. Every attempt to assert that the French can’t make mean and sordid rock is superfluous from now on. Thanks to Sandie Trash that is.

Wishing you all the best for the next year.
Cheers, Maks

Yearlists (3)

Here’s the yearlist of regular guestposter Mordi, he of the world famous Blowupdoll blog:

2013 has been a interesting year for French music – not a lot that I liked, but what did, I absolutely loved passionately. There were also some huge disappointments too courtesy of Alizée and Carla Bruni. but let’s focus on the positives! – these are my frenchie faves 2013:
1Albin De La Simone – Un Homme
WOW! This is probably the most played album in my house, car and i-phone this year. 100 times better than anything he’s released before – the production on this album is perfect- the songs are thoughtful, witty, quirky and beautiful. I am still not bored of it. Recommended listen: Ma Crise

2Alex Beaupain – Apres Moi Le Deluge
I am a huge fan of Alex – such wonderful songs, full of passion. He didn’t let me down this year- an album full of different styles but all with his signature emotive depth. Recommended listen: Vite

3Rose – Et Puis Juin
A subtle album full of beautiful tunes, slightly in the same vein as Berry. Recommended listen :Aux eclats je ris

4Alka – La Premier Fois
(Read my original view on this blog!) All I really need to say is Biolay + Gainsbourg influences + Adjani style vocals (but all with a contemporary feel) = a top album. Recommended listen : D’un amore a l’autre

5Vanessa Paradis – Love Songs
A near perfect album. Biolay is present again here in the song writing. She sounds the best she ever has – less nasal and with a mature confidence. And a double cd too – so much to enjoy. Recommended listen: Les Espaces et les Sentiments

6BB Brunes – Long Courier
I’m not going to pretend this is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard – but for a short while I really enjoyed it. If you fancy a change of scene from delicate female vocals – try something a bit more guitar based. Recommend listen: Aficionado

7 Mylene Farmer – Monkey Me
I know this came out at the tail end of 2012 but it seemed to get a bit lost, so it’s on my list for this year. It’s what you’d now expect from Mylene. moody, melancholy electro-dance numbers. no new surprises from mylene- just a reliable, if predictable, but a bloody enjoyable album. Recommended listen : Elle a dit

Joyeux Anniversaire

999061_673310432683225_205723018_nIn between year lists, here’s a nice little intermezzo. Coralie Clément, guardian angel of this blog, sings Joyeux Anniversaire (‘Happy birthday’) on the cd that comes with children’s book Iris a 3 ans by Gesa Hansen. A sweet story about Iris, who invites all her friends and family to her birthday party and who gets a black cat called Edgar. Coralie tells the stoy, sings two songs including Joyeux anniversaire. If you cough on time when she sings ‘Iris’ it’s just like she sings it to you! Did you know Coralie has a blog (under her real name)? HERE

Coralie Clément – Joyeux anniversaire

Yearlists (2)

2-.-jerrypigeonHere is the yearlist of regular guestposter Steve:

Steve’s Transatlantic take on the year’s top Francophone offerings.

Despite it being a bumper year, only those albums that had an official release Stateside this year were considered. This unfortunately disqualified Pendentif’s otherwise excellent “Mafia Douce”, which to date still hasn’t had a US release (hello Discograph – I’m talking to you), while La Grande Sophie’s “La place du fantôme” was actually released in Europe last year… and there was enough new good stuff to not require repeats – however good they were…

Regular readers will once again note that there’s a strong presence from nord du 49e and theoretically eleven recommendations, stretching a top-10 best of slightly…

10 Chantal Archambault – “Les élans”. One of a number of fine country-folk albums released this year. From Marie-Pierre Arthur influenced toe-tappers (“Tomber frêle” and “Les détours”), delightful country numbers (Les ébats” and “Toucher les cèdres”) to plaintive ballads (“Chambre 16” and “Les élans”), Chantal expertly crafted 12 songs that resulted in “Les élans” being deservedly nominated at this year’s Quebec Indie Music Awards (GAMIQ).

9 This entry works on the assumption that two EP’s sort of equate to one album… Budding actress, model and cash-strapped fashionista Chantal Bellavance turned her hand to song-writing and released “J’attends”, a nigh-on perfect example of contemporary electro-pop. Meanwhile, the New Brunswick trio of Julie Aubé, Katrine Noël and Vivianne Roy – better known as Les Hay Babies – gave us “Folio”, a bilingual country-influenced EP, tinged with beautiful Arcadian-French accents, tight harmonies and a rye sense of humour, evident from the plaintive “Obsédée” to the in-your-face “Chu pas une femme a` marier”.

8 Zaz – “Recto Verso”. Thanks to a heart-felt review in Dutch blog Nummer Van de Dag, I finally realised that one Isabelle Geffroy is a proper Chanteuse and that she can absolutely nail chansons (albeit this album’s opener “On ira” is a perfect pop song) as was apparent from both “La lessive” or the Piaf-esque “Je tant escamoté” (complete with haunting accordion). There’s a great warm jazz undercurrent permeating throughout the album that is topped off with a fantastic (and faithful) cover of Charles Aznavour’s “Ouble Loulou”. Besides, if Zaz is good enough for acclaimed economist and New York Times columnist Professor Paul Krugman, she’s more than good enough for my end of year list…

7 Laurence Hélie – “À présent le passé”. A far more expansive album that her 2010 debut, the melancholic and autobiographical “À présent le passé” mined the rich seam of contemporary French-Canadian folk and the jazz, blues and country of traditional Americana. There’s a frightening effortless in the way that Laurence moved from pop-tinged country (“À présent le passé”) to jazz-tinged blues (“De tout et de rien”) and back again. But it was the slower numbers – especially with the reflective “trente ans” and “La rivière” – that really shone. The album is worth the entry money for those two tracks alone.

6 Alizée – “5”. In which the girl from Ajaccio came back with a vengeance. After a bit of a mauling of “Une Enfant du Siècle”, with her 5th studio album Alizée finally hit upon the mature sound and style that she had been striving for. The album’s opener “À cause de l’automne”, with its retro-60’s feel and sweeping chorus, was as good a pop song as was released this year and set the vibe that resonated throughout the album, featuring a great mix of interspersed catchy, memorable up-tempo and slower songs – from “Le dernier soufflé” to the heartfelt and semi-autobiographical “10 ans”. Alizée has always had a great voice, but all too often never the material. With this album she not only made a damn fine pop record, she finally found a platform to express herself.

5 Hotel Morphée – “Histoires des fantomes” For all the great pop, country and folk albums that the French-Canadian Provinces have produced, the French music scene this side of the pond desperately needs bands capable of producing more albums of this calibre. “Histoires des fantomes” was a dark, brooding – yes, gothic – work. The eleven tracks demanded attention – orchestral strings plucked with chainsaws, Stéphane Lemieux’s solid percussion and Laurence Nerbonne’s distinctive flat, haunting vocals – which evoked an undercurrent of menace. While “Garde à vous” was unashamedly poppy, it’s the darker songs such as “Des histoires de fantômes”, and “Dessine-Moi” that really hit home. The album’s final track is the aptly titled “C’est mieux comme ca”. It most definitely is…

4 Marianne Bel – “Le Balcon”. A beautifully delicate yet intricate mélange of folk, jazz, country pop and mariachi-infused folklorico (check out the horns on “Les outardes”), its hard to believe that this polished and professional album was Marianne’s debut offering as there’s a maturity and assuredness far beyond her tender years on display here. The album set its stall with “Blanc et noire”, a bluesy-jazzy “chanson” – Marianne’s vocals over a simple double-bass which are aided by a brass section that really makes the song lift and soar. Every track on this album is a true work of art and a pleasure to listen to – from the deliciously risque “Dagmar” to the achingly beautiful “Prisionero”, performed note-perfectly a cappella style en español. In any other year, this would be a shoe-in for album of the year…

3 Forêt – “Forêt” Just how good was the debut album from Montreal duo Émilie Laforest and Joseph Marchand? As good an example of inventive indie-rock as was released this year – in English or in French – that’s how good. This is another example of the kind of cutting-edge music that the French-Canadian music scene is crying out for. A beautifully disturbing album – distilling the atmospheric expansiveness of The Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance with a dark psychedelic undercurrent reminiscent of Portishead – the end result, infused with Laforest’s dreamy yet haunting vocals, weaved a surrealistic yet edgy aural landscape. Nine perfectly crafted and varied songs, from “Le verbe amour”, with its chorus that embedded itself in your skull, the driving beat of “Corps maquillés” to the ghostly “Je tombe avec la pluie”. Fantastic!

2 Axelle Red – “Rouge Ardent”. Belgian singer-songwriter Axelle Red’s ninth studio album was arguably her best since 1996’s “À Tâtons”. With a collection of 10 thoughtful, introspective songs, she drew from all of her 20 year career to pull together an incredibly soulful and humble album. Surrounding herself with the cream of Memphis musicians, every track on this album, from the driving “Amour profund” with its wall of horns and precussion, the brooding intensity of “Rouge Ardent” to powerful ballads such as “Quelque part allieurs” and “jusqu’au bout” – all delivered with Axelle’s unique vocal style – was a beautiful hommage to the city and sound of Stax.

1 Les Soeurs Boulay – “Le poids des confettis”. I’d raved about Sisters Melanie and Stéphanie Boulay’s EP last time round, but their sublime debut album exceeded even my (already highly) expectations. This was an album chock full of songs about love, life and heartbreak. At times intimate and introverted (“Mappemonde” and “Lola en confiture”), others bold and extrovert (“Ôte-moi mon linge” and the toe-tapping “Par Le Chignon de Cou”). The sister’s warm and hauntingly rhythmic melodies stood comparison to those of a certain Simon and Garfunkel, especially the way their voices intertwined telepathically. This was a thoroughly deserved album of the year. But don’t take my word for it, “Le poids des confettis” picked up “Folk Album of the Year” awards at both major Quebec music awards festivals (ADISQ and GAMIQ), while the Sisters themselves won Artist of the Year at the aforementioned GAMIQs…

Yearlists (1)

The end is nigh, that’s why we like to round things up. The FS-editors and regular guestposters made up their minds about what they thought were the bestest French albums and/or songs of the year.

Here’s Guuzbourg’s list:

1. Pendentif – Mafia Douce.
It’s retro, yes. But the combination of ‘American beaches and British winds’ worked like a charm. I played this album to death, and I never got bored.

2. Vanessa Paradis – Love Songs.
Of all the Big Stars who released albums in 2013 (Benjamin Biolay, Elodie Frégé, Alizée, Axelle Red), Vanessa took the biscuit. Maybe not as solid as Divinidylle, but Tu vois c’que je vois, Prends garde a moi and even the duets with Biolay (who disappointed with his own album) are very, very good.

3. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin
Twannggg! The debut album of this Parisian collective is a wild, weird and wonderful affair, ranging from an update of the surftastic Sur la planche to synthified Si un jour. It’s not a perfect album (too many songs), but the ideas, the sultry vocals and the energy make up for the flaws.

4. Forêt – Forêt.
What Steve said.

5. De La Jolie Musique – Plein Soleil.
One could think that French music is all about re-vamping old ideas – this top 5 is almost completely retrofied. So what, I say. I fell hard for this update of the exquisite, rich soundtrack music of J-C Vannier and Francois de Roubaix, with some John Barry touches.

Chantal Bellavance

Chantal Bellavance, yet another promising singer-songwriter emerges from Québec… And when the songs are tagged as “cutting crystalline pop” they have got to be worth a listen, n’est-ce pas?

It would appear that 27 year-old, classically trained, Chantal Bellavance – sometime budding actress, model, cash-strapped fashionista (or “fashionista sans budget” as she writes) – could quite easily add another string to her bow as a singer-songwriter, if her recently released four-track EP “J’attends” is anything to go by.

“J’attends” hits you with a blast of retro-80’s influenced synthesiser-pop – four vignettes of bitter-sweet slices of life, love, despondency and disillusionment – that are nigh on perfect. The EP is perfectly balanced; two up-tempo numbers “J’attends” and the down-right foot-tapping “Le matériau ne convient pas”, both neatly sandwiching and counterpoising the slower yet still poppy “Serial lover” and the subdued ballad “Qui”.

And then there is Chantal’s (and yes it has to be said) crystal-clear voice, which like the middle-eight of the title track rises and soars, none more so than on “Qui” – which is rapidly positioning itself as the standout track – with its sympathetic piano accompaniment and her laser-like vocals… cutting like a searchlight through the gloom.

There’s also a nice video to accompany “J’attends”… Chantal’s model deportment is put to good use in this one…

(This is a guestpost by Steve)(Obviously)

Jerome, Pendentif

Lovely cover of Que vais-je en faire? by Pendentif. Original version by Jerome Echenoz, who re-released is album from 2012 with several remixes and reworks, like this one. Full album on Bandcamp.


Growing up on a farm in rural Burgundy, the lure of music was stronger than a life of agriculture for Clémence Freschard; at 12 she started putting on gigs in the barn. At 18 she moved to Paris where she worked in a café, meeting regular customer Andre Herman Dune, the sterling lo-fi pop genius who has worked with FS favourite Françoiz Breut. He wrote some songs for Freschard. She then decamped to New York, where she picked up an old electric guitar and started writing her own material. Now a long-time resident of Berlin, her fifth album, Boom Biddy Boom, is out on the ace UK label WIAIWYA (Where It’s At Is Where You Are) on lovely orange vinyl and from her Bandcamp in. let’s face it, marginally less lovely digital formats. The album’s sung in a great accented English, with slack guitars and sparse instrumentation. It’s lovely stuff in any language.

(Thanks Adrian for this guestpost)