And in other news: Vanessa Paradis will sing a duet with Benjamin Biolay on his upcoming (November) album!
Back in 2009, La Patère Rose recorded their highly recommended self-titled debut, followed by EP Waikiki in 2010. After that, singer Fanny Bloom (Fanny Grosjean) already announced the end of La Patère Rose and hereby initiated her solo career. A good choice according to her just released solo debut ‘Apprentie Guerrière’.
Fanny grew up. The sometimes somewhat naïve songs of La Patère Rose are replaced by catchy and cheesy synth-pop songs (single Parfait, Parfait) or cheerful Lio-esque tracks like ‘Tes bijoux’. A handful of piano-driven tracks shows her skills for serious melody-rich writing that comes to it’s peak with the stunningly beautiful and emotional ‘Mon Hiver’. A moving song – way too short though – with some weird voice effects in it. Bloom at her absolute best.
Apprentie Guerrière is a mature and diverse album that never fails and finishes with a very intimate title track. Bloom shows with this album that she grew in all facets of her writing, but luckily still has her delightful, hoarse voice on top of it. Some things are good as they are.
So without any doubt, there is this sentence again: Yearlist material people.
Fanny Bloom – Mon Hiver
La Patère Rose – Décapote (so we won’t forget)
Remember quirky Canadian trio La Patère Rose? In 2009, they made the Filles Sourires Album of the Year-list. Alas, they called it quits in 2011. Singer Fanny Bloom recorded a solo album that’s about to drop soon. First single Parfait, Parfait fishes in the same musical pond as Lykke Li and The Dø – 80s synths, fierce drums, soothing voice. Which is nice. Very much looking forward to that album, we love that voice.
Ariane Moffatt is one of this blogs favourite artists,although apart from last year’s (wonderful) single “Soleil chaleur” things – at least on the musical front – have been quiet since 2012’s “MA” (although to be fair Ariane and partner Florence Marcil-Denault recently became parents) – but now she’s back – not only with a new single “Debout”, but also a new album “22h22”, scheduled to be released in March.
It’s only January, but I suspect you’ll have to go some to find a better example of dreamy, synth-pop as will be released this year. “Debout” is a stand-out dance-floor filler that brings to mind Fanny Bloom’s “Pan”, and is beautiful and heartfelt song to the power and triumph of love and relationships… Welcome back Ariane!
Originally the female half of Canadian folk-pop duo Tricot Machine, “Rookie” is the debut solo album from Catherine Leduc, and despite the fact that Matthieu Beaumont – long-time partner and the other half of the Tricot Machine – helped produce, mix and play on a number of the keyboards, the sound is far removed from the frothy, bouncy – cute – piano-based pop that the duo were renowned. In it’s place is an incredibly dreamy, melancholic, atmospheric and ye, more mature, sound. Similar to Fanny Bloom (the voice behind La Patère Rose) and her own stunning 2012 solo “Apprentie Guerrière, “Rookie” sees Catherine Leduc blossom and deliver as assured an album as is likely to be released this year.
“Rookie” may seem a strange title for an album from an artist who in one guise or another has been performing and recording for over a decade, but as Catherine has revealed in interviews in the French-Canadian press, this album really is about starting out afresh and (re)defining herself, musically.
The haunting introduction to “Les Vieu hiboux” – with polysynth owls swooping through the midnight forest – sets the melancholic theme that is developed through the ten peerless songs featured here, all aided by the added tinge of fragility that Catherine’s vocals deliver. This feeling of melancholy is further driven home on the sublime “Vendredi Saint.” It’s an absolutely beautiful song – the construction – building from a solo acoustic guitar accompanying incredibly resonant lyrics that would surely melt the iciest of hearts – is as powerful as it is simply executed.
“Pee-Wee BB” sees Catherine explore through junior (ice) hockey, themes of inferiority and overcoming adversity – themes which again are woven through the album; while “Polatouche” adds glockenspiel with overdubbed vocals and the most angelic of choruses to a perfectly paced song.
It’s hard to pick out a stand-out track on an album of such high quality – the absence of a review of all the album’ songs is primarily one of brevity – but “Il faut se lever le matin”, with deep plucked bass chord, and the album’s closing number “Ouvre ton coeur!” with it’s soaring – imploring – chorus and uptempo hook are the songs that I keep returning to… And the ones that makes me yearn for more…
“Rookie” is one of this year’s outstanding albums – irrespective of language. Should further recommendation be required, it has, in my humble opinion, the same wow (as in “Wow! WTF was that?”) factor as Forêt’s astonishing debut from last year.
This album is year-list material…
This year is already shaping up to be a great one for filles fragiles, with a number of albums coming out from favorites from years gone by. Perhaps a coincidence with Valentine’s Day, but I have found my first new love of 2014, Julie Brunet, aka Grenadine.
Julie’s been around for a while on the Quebec music scene, playing many concerts, having put out an EP in 2010 with help from Fanny Bloom. Julie’s first full album, “Grenadine”, just came out last month. Julie’s music is varied, but her style is simple, accompanied by guitar, piano and drums, with her voice front and center, unaugmented. She’s receiving some press coverage, here’s a recent interview, where Julie names Vanessa Paradis as one of her musical influences. (Not mentioned in the article, one odd tidbit is Julie has degrees in anthropology and archeology.)
One of the songs from the “Grenadine” album, “Je Veux, Je Veux” reminded me so strongly of a young France Gall, I wondered if it was a cover (it’s not). A free download of “Saint-Flavie”, from her EP, on Bandcamp (see below). Besides “Je Veux, Je Veux”, another favorite is “Petits Mensonges” – tough to choose, as I enjoyed them all.
(Thanks David for this guestpost!)
When it comes to electro-pop, Canada has a great tradition, ranging from TransX to Mitsou to Fanny Bloom. Montreal-bases Scarlatine (nom de plume of Judith Brodeur-Rowe) paints a very moody picture, with several shades of black and grey. No wonder one of her tracks is called ‘Noir’. But Navire is the one to dive in to, building like a big wave, giving you the chills and make you want to get wet some more.
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
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.
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
This 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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All FillesSourires-contributors (me, FransS, Sky and Maks, see below) are posting their year lists in the upcoming days. Plus, we asked several regular guestposters and FS-fans to send in their lists too. List-o-mania, baby!
1. Marie Pierre Arthur – Aux Alentours.
MPA isn’t the antithesis to Coeur de Pirate (my #1 of 2011), but there are obvious differences. Less tattoos, more guitar than piano-driven and in lyrics and feel slightly older, more mature. Aux Alentours is MPA’s sophomore offering, with hard-hitting hits (Si tu savais) and almost esotheric ballads (A Partir de maintenant). It’s the French(-Canadian) album I played the most in the past months, the one that kept on giving, the one that left a mark.
2. Fanny Bloom – Apprentie Guerrière.
‘Lio-esque’ is the penultimate compliment on this blog (the biggest is of course ‘Gainsbourgian’). On Parfait Parfait, Fanny’s almost out-Lio’ing Wanda de Vasconcelos, and that’s REALLY saying something. Yes, I do miss La Patère Rose, but this plaster covers that wound quite nicely. Merci Fanny.
3. Céline Mastrorelli – Elle Était Une Fois.
Speaking of Gainsbourgian, listening to Céline’s duet with Joseph d’Anvers (T’oublies or not t’oublies) is like ASMR to me. Goosebumps, hair-raising, butterflies in the belly, everthing. And that’s just one song on this album that is as beautiful as Céline herself.
4. Françoise Hardy – L’amour fou.
Haven’t read the novel that came with this album (waiting for the English translation) but if it is as good as this album, it’s quite a read. Françoise ages with grace, dignity and songwriters who provide songs that fit her like stylish black leather gloves. See Pourquoi Vous? here.
5. Melody’s Echo Chamber – s/t.
This is cheating a little, because there are more English than French tunes on this debut. But hey, she’s called Melody! She is French! And she sings really, really husky! And I simply ADORE this kind of shoegaze with electronica with Gainsbourgian touches.
Bubbling under: Francoiz Breut, Emily Loizeau, Barbara Carlotti, Liza Manili, Olivia Ruiz and Mademoiselle Nineteen.
Merci for yet another hoarse voices-filled year. Keep it up!