Brigitte Bardot is 80

Wonderful-BB-brigitte-bardot-18654561-548-650Brigitte Bardot, who celebrates her 80th birthday tomorrow, was in her heyday a fine popular singer. She made some good records between 1962 and 1970, and was offered songs by top writers. She had been a screen actress for several years before she first recorded at the age of 28. Her acting experience ensured that lip-synching on camera and making good pop videos was no problem for her, and she could fully match Sylvie Vartan and France Gall when she wanted.

A good example of this talent is BB doing the twist with ‘L’Appareil à sous’ (1963):

Bardot’s greatest collaboration was with the writing duo Jean-Max Rivière and Gérard Bourgeois, who later gave Françoise Hardy two of her best-loved sixties songs, ‘Rendez-vous d’automne’ and ‘L’Amitié’. Here is BB performing their ‘C’est rigolo’, carefully-choreographed for TV

In 1967, for the film ‘A Coeur joie’ in which she starred, she recorded the beautiful ‘A la fin de l’été’, (also written by Rivière and Bourgeois) played against an autumn beach scene in the film.

Serge Gainsbourg, taken with the film ‘Bonny and Clyde’ wrote a French song about the story for himself and BB and produced this stylish video in 1968.

If that today looks very much of its time, BB’s recording of Marcel Zanini’s ‘Tu veux ou tu veux pas’ is as refreshing today as when it came out in 1970.

And it has taken until today to be matched, by the modern pop seductress Elodie Frégé in 2013.

But of all her songs, Brigitte Bardot deserves to be remembered forever for ‘La Madrague’. Une madrague is a fishing net used in the Mediterranean to catch tuna, and she bought her famous seaside house at Saint-Tropez of that name in 1958. This perfect light song was written for her and her house by Jean-Max Rivière and Gérard Bourgeois in 1963. Here is BB on TV in the 60s, and in a video filmed at ‘La Madrague’ in 1968.

The English translation here (over a somewhat distorted photo of BB) shows how ‘La Madrague’ succeeds as a classic by its simplicity.

And ‘La Madrague’ perhaps more than any other Bardot song gave us something else. When she first came to our attention in 2009, and was asked what past singers she had learned from, Béatrice Martin (Coeur de Pirate) said that she was influenced by Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Hardy; and interestingly more by BB than by Françoise. This puzzled those who did not know of BB’s recordings. But listening to ‘La Madrague’ it all becomes clear. The light, high voice of Bardot seems a prototype of Béatrice’s, and one can imagine how she realised that she could do what BB had done, and take it so much further because she could add her own writing and piano skills to her unique voice. ‘La Madrague’ is Coeur de Pirate in embryo.

God created woman, as the 1956 film that made Bardot’s name tells us, but Brigitte Bardot’s own voice and singing style was a major inspiration to Béatrice Martin. BB created CdP. Now that is a legacy.

Fanny Bloom album

Pan, the new album by kooky Quebecoise Fanny Bloom is out now (see on Bandcamp). To be honest, I’m still a bit shaken by the sheer quality of Salomé Leclerc’s sophomore offering, so no review of FB yet. The first track, tho, sounds good to me:

Salomé Leclerc – 27 fois l’aurore

Today, Salomé Leclerc’s highly anticipated sophomore album was released in Canada (out in Europe on Oct 13th). Here’s my ‘premature evaluation’, and on the fly review:
1. Arlon. We know this fierce track (‘t was a single), heavy on the reverb, heavy on the bass. It sounds like it was recorded with Salomé in the cellar, and the band in the studio. Haunting. See the video.
2. En dedans. Starts with a wailing Salomé, her vocals drenched in echo again, and that now signature sound of strumming acoustic guitar and the groove on the electric guitar, very upfront in the mix. Break down (or a coda) half way with crashing electronic drums and brass sounds.
3. L’icône du naufrage. Slow, sparse electronic beat, early-spy-fi synth sounds. Tempo picks up half way, with a twanging guitar. Cool.
4. Un bout de fil. Piano-ballad with storm sounds in the back. Heavy dub-fx near the end. Salomé sounding very fragile
5. Le bon moment. More uptempo, rocking. Sounds a bit like a Joy Division song (Isolation), but with brass, cowbell and a distorted piano, and a piercing organ. Best song on the album so far. See a sparse live-version:

6. Vers le sud.. This song backed Arlon, it still sounds like Timber Timbre doing a Kraftwerk-cover, with Salomé on lead vocals. We already knew, but this is a great song. See a live video here.
7. Les chemins de l’ombre. Slow, brooding song with heavy piano accents, Fender Rhodes piano and a few bits and electronic pieces. Songs seems to build up to a crescendo, but it doesn’t.
8. It morphs into this song Attendre la fin, that has an eastern vibe thanks to the electronic vibraphone sounds, then breaks into an indie-midtempo rocker with added percussion. Drums get heavier near the end. Few lyrics, long chorusses. Not my favourite track.
9. Et si cette fois était la bonne. Starts with distorted piano and Salomé’s husky voice drenched in reverb. String-y sounds (probably an organ) add to the mysterious atmosphere. Then a full on brass finale comes in.
10. Devant les canons. Those Joy Division-ized drums again, heavy piano and reverb on the guitar. By now, it almost sounds like Salomé’s ran out of ideas, but this signature sound still grabs me. Combined with her lovely voice. The brass helps too. This builds and builds. Longest track on the album (5m46s). Gets better everytime your hear it.
11. J’espère aussi que tu y seras. Breakbeats, wailing siren-sounds, Salomé’s fading away, like a ghost in the wind.

All ‘n all a fascinating follow-up to a strong debut, this album’s made for the fall, a soundtrack to stormy clouds, falling leaves and walking with your collar up.

Read Canadian reviews (in French) here, here, here

Salomé Leclerc – Le bon moment
For the compilation ‘Trente’, marking the 30th anniversary of the Canadian record label Audiogram, Salomé recorded a special version of ‘Arlon’:
Salomé Leclerc – Arlon

Coeur de Pirate – Béatrice Martin 25

Béatrice Martin is 25 years old today. Congrats! Mark Sullivan sings her praise (again):
Béatrice Martin, whose ‘project’ Coeur de Pirate has become so successful that it is carrying her towards a new bilingual pop career, was born on 22 September 1989. She early on told interviewers how important her years from 18 to 25 were going to be, and that they would set her direction for the rest of her life. Now she has reached the horizon she set for herself. It is worth reviewing her exceptional career, and see where she may go next.

Filles Sourires has a particular interest in the blonde with tattooes from Montreal, for we spotted her right at the start, in Autumn 2008, before any other English-language blog, and before she was known in France. Béatrice was number 1 on the FS 2008 Year List :
‘And suddenly there she was, as could be expected from une fille fragile, whispers sweet words in your ear, and the songs will stay there, they won’t go away; they are forever, like a tattoo.’

Béatrice, who had started at the piano at the age of 3, launched her first album in Montreal as she reached 19, in September 2008, here with ‘Ensemble’

Right from the start this was something unusual – a girl at a piano with a backing band, with live performances as fine as her recordings. The video of ‘Comme des enfants’ soon followed and by January 2009 she was in France recording her music afresh. See her in the studio playing ‘C’est salement romantique’, one of her best early compositions.

Her international fame began though with the use of her track ‘Ensemble’ by a father in Quebec to go with as time-lapse film of his son playing on the floor over several hours – the famous ‘Vachon baby’ film which received publicity in the US and France. After this she was invited several times onto the CBC televised chat-show ‘Q’ at which she sang in French and talked in English. Here on ‘Q’ in September 2009 is the very first film of CdP performing her classic ‘Place de la République’, which she wrote after completing her original album, but did not record for another 2 years.

In 2010 Béatrice found herself conquering France, with sell-out concerts and at Les Victoires de la Musique. Scrutiny from amateur film-recorders became intense. Film of her on Youtube piled up. The video of ‘Pour un infidèle’ sung with French pop heart-throb Julien Doré was fun. Her first album by then was on the way to selling 500,000 and she had really arrived.

In 2010 the Quebec time-travel TV series ‘Les Rescapés’ (a reverse version of the British TV series ‘Life on Mars’) chose modern singers to perform hits from the 1960-64 period from which the characters had come, to be played over the end credits. Coeur de Pirate was chosen to sing best-known of all Francophone pop songs of that time, Françoise Hardy’s ‘Tous les garçons et les filles’.

Endlessly argued over for its comparison with the original, the film of this live performance has notched up 1.8 million hits on Youtube in 4 years.

Meanwhile CdP showed that she could better the originals with covers of well-known songs in English, as in 2010 with Phoenix’s ‘Lasso’.
This fine version is on no album yet. Also, check her duet with Jay Malinowski, on the EP they made together as Armistice.

The second album, the long-awaited ‘Blonde’, appeared in October 2011, and was immediately acclaimed as perfect. See the Filles Sourires full review here.
Béatrice then set out on a major tour with two albums to perform (and thus no longer a shortage of songs). Here she is at L’Ancienne Belgique on 4 December 2011.

And her first appearance in the United States followed, with four concerts – including a terrific one in New York in which she showed her bilingual skills in introducing every song… and the memorable line for monolingual Americans, ‘For those who don’t know me, I’m Coeur de Pirate, or Corda Pyrit…’ to huge laughter.

After her US concerts, Béatrice announced that she was pregnant and would not be able to complete her tour. But she continued well into the summer, perhaps the one top singer in the world who would do this. See her well-wrapped-up on a cold evening in April 2012 at the open-air Théâtre de Verdure in Nice performing ‘Les amours dévouées’ from ‘Blonde’.

A feature of CdP concerts is the scale of singing along with her songs. She has described in the past how her fans ‘know every word of all the songs’. Proof of this comes from this film of her final song, piano-only, ‘Adieu’, at Avignon in March 2012.

Béatrice’s baby, Romy, was born in September 2012, she having married Alex Peyrat in the summer. By the end of 2012 she was easing herself back into performances, including at a Montreal Christmas charity event a rather good version of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’; and then back in France showing her dominance in duets such as with Roch Voisine here.

CdP’s more recent career, including her sell-out solo 12-concert tour in Europe in April 2013, and her 2014 album of English-language covers, ‘Trauma’, has been well-reported on Filles Sourires, here, her music for the ‘Child of Light’ video game here, and her interpretation of Renaud’s ‘Mistral gagnant’, where there is also discussion of her exceptional ‘Taratata’ appearance on 28 February 2014.

What can we look forward to? Film of her fascinating interview with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC’s ‘Q’ in March 2014 can now be watched.
Her skill and intelligence matched with frankness and humour is even more impressive than before.
Béatrice tells us how she works and that we can look forward next to a new album of her own songs – some in English. As she said to a music website Noisey on the release of ‘Child of Light’ in May 2014, “I always have music in my head from being in the conservatory early on and playing a lot of classical music. I have a lot of melodies that are just there and I record them all the time on my iPhone.”

But to really understand the Coeur de Pirate phenomenon, it seems right to mark her six years of success by showing her before her fans in several huge French concerts in 2010. She used to end her concerts performing ‘Francis’ solo at the piano, after the band had left the stage. Renaud Bastien, the senior musician in her band, filmed ‘Francis’ from the back of the stage several times. He put clips together in one 5-minute film. It’s worth watching.

Hôtel Morphée

Reve americain
The phrase “year-list material” tends to get bandied around a bit (guilty as charged – here’s Exhibit A and Exhibit B), but I make no apologies for suggesting that Montréal-based Hôtel Morphée’s sophomore album “Rêve américain” is a more than worthy addition to the fold.

Whereas the band’s 2013 debut “Des Histoires des Fantômes” was all dark, brooding and Gothic tinged, “Reve américain” has a more pronounce alt-rock edge. Although the menacing undercurrent isn’t far from the surface and there’s the trademark liberal application of orchestral strings, the sound is altogether a more urgent, distorted, guitar-fuelled affair.

The direction the album takes was apparent from the thumping up-tempo “Dernier jour” – the more pronounced rock sound overlaid with violins and Laurence Newbornne’s rasping vocals (which appear to have far more range and expression than on “Des Histoires des Fantômes”) This is further confirmed by the album’s opening track, “Reve américain” – sombre keyboards buried beneath distorted, pounding bass – and some cleverly effects with Auto-Tune on Laurence’s voice as she ever so matter-of-factly addresses dreaming “…that one was killed and that one was missing…”

While the musical direction of the album is a new departure, the band maintain the illusion of expertly wrapping disconcerting lyrics with punchy rhythms – “Psycholove” – a love song for psychopaths, being a case in-point. Indeed the album explores the realities and myths of the American dream, walking as it does the tightrope between reverie and nightmares, exploring themes of love (“Soigne-moi”), sex (“Petite mort”) and violence (“Des milliers de gens”).

All eleven songs here are frighteningly consistent in quality; the reflective “Je reviendrai” is totally structured around Laurence’s auto-tuned and reverbed – almost tremolo vocals; “Tucson” paints a picture as bleak as the city under a burning Arizona sun…

I’ve previously commented that for all the great pop, country and folk albums that the French-Canadian Provinces have produced, the French music scene on this side of the pond desperately needs bands capable of delivering albums that generates the “frisson” that alternative and indie-rock provides.

With “Reve américain”, Hôtel Morphée have delivered this album…


Marianne Dissard covers Hardy

Wes Anderson’s use of Françoise Hardy’s ‘Le temps de l’amour’ has been mentioned several times on this blog (Here, Here). For a tribute album to Anderson’s movies and the music in those movies, Marianne Dissard did a great coverversion of Le temps.

More about the tribute album, featuring tracks by Mike Watt, Juliana Hatfield, William Fitzsimmons and Kristin Hersh, HERE, listen to the full album on Soundcloud HERE

La Bronze

From Montreal, Canada, I give you, La Bronze: