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
Golden Baby
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

Lola Dutronic

Something old, something new, something borrowed and something very blue from everyone’s favourite bilingual transatlantic electronic pop duo of Toronto-based Richard Citroen and vocalist (and Dusseldorf resident) Stephanie B.

The song is available from the pair’s Bandcamp site…with promise of a new album later this year!


20150208 Robi ArtworkChloé Robineau’s debut album “L’hiver et la Joie” – a stunningly atmospheric and at times dark and brooding, minimalist indie-pop album populated with synth keyboards and throbbing basslines – deservedly featured amongst 2013’s year-listed albums. And now a couple of years later Chloé – or Robi – as she is better known, is back with a brand new album “La Cavale”, that from the opening bars of “L’éternité” reveals a collection of songs which share the same dark and brooding themes as its predecessor and is again populated with minimalist synthesiser keyboards, stark bass lines and Robi’s deliberately monotonic yet hypnotically seductive vocals.

Yet you also start to notice the subtle changes that Robi manages to convey to the song with just some deft inflections to her voice, added guitar, cello and what sounds like orchestral horns (but which I suspect is just programmation) that provide both added substance and an analogue mellowness; the inherent coldness and unforgivingness of industrial synth-pop is replaced by a yielding warmth. Indeed, while the overall tone of this album is decidedly melancholic there are also some very clever touches displayed here -an unexpected sensuality to Robi’s voice on “Nuit de fête” that is expertly framed by the song’s melody, while “Danser” oozes romance and passion – a solitary spotlight following two dancers as they pirouette across a deserted dance floor.

The more that I’ve been listening to this album over the past week, so I’m convinced that “La Cavale” shares a kindred spirit with La Féline’s “Adieu L’Enface” and nowhere more so than with the haunting “A cet endroit” with its heavily reverbed guitar, analogue synths and melodic chorus.

“La Cavale” is a totally captivating and assured album, perfect for driving along a desolate two-lane flat top, searing headlights illuminating the dark, waiting for the moment daylight rescues us from the night’s grasp…

Petite Meller

imagesA French artist that’s gaining attention in Holland (and beyond) right now is Petite Meller (real name Sivan Meller). She makes nouveau jazzy pop, wears heavy lolita-make up and sings like a young Vanessa Paradis. In fact, she covered VP’s Joe Le Taxi. Before going solo, she was part of Terry Poison, a band that was under my radar during their existence. Dirty electropop song Comme Ci Comme Ca was a hit, apparently.
To quote The Guardian:
“Don’t be fooled by the cutesy hiccup or the flirtation with Lolita chic, though – Ms Meller is a philosophy postgraduate currently studying for her masters. She’s a big fan of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and his theories on the libidinal subconscious (who isn’t?) as well as Deleuze and Guattari and their exploration of the rhizomatic principle. A reality TV dunce she is not. She’s into French New Wave cinema and the Italian masters (Pasolini, Fellini, Visconti) and she even based the video to her single Backpack on Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou and L’Enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot. In it, she says, she and the director “were trying to capture aesthetic recollections of my childhood… [when] I was discovering my sexuality for the first time.”

Somehow I feel Petite Meller is stealing Yelle’s shine in making babypop electro, but current single Baby Love is undeniably infectious AND has a great video with giraffes:

If only she sang in French

What a cool song. What a great voice. As if Françoise Hardy recorded with Velvet Underground, produced by Joe Meek. Shame it’s not in French….