Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Indochine: La vie est belle

A notification from Indochine HQ this week that one of France's biggest rock groups is back in action, with a single, new album and tour on the horizon.

Since the 90s, Indochine have been one of the country's biggest rock acts, with a commercial and artistic credibility that few can equal. It's hard to think of an Anglo equivalent to indochine, the closest would be someone like U2, a post-punk act who went on to fill stadiums, but unlike U2 they never became a parody of what once made them great.

Indochine's last studio album was 2013's Black City Parade, a number one album in France that included the track College Boy, a tarck that showed that even a band that had been around for a few decades was still capable of raising difficult and controversial questions.

Their subsequent tours supporting the album saw them play two shows at the Stade de France, as well as a gig in London. Two live albums, Black City Tour and Black City Concerts documented the dates, both collections reaching the top ten.

So some new materiais quite a big deal, and the band unveiled their new track on prime time French TV show Quotidien avec Yann Barthes.

Their new track La vie est belle come from their forthcoming 13th album, which is due to appear on September 8.

They've confirmed a tour of arenas in France in February 2018, with a show at the Zénith on Paris on February 16 and 17. Tickets go on sale on June 21.


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Phoenix: Goodbye Soleil

A new video by Phoenix, for the track Goodbye Soleil which sees France's favourite feelgood
indie rockers sing in their native tongue as well as English.

It's a classic summer track and continues the retro Euro dance vibe that their previous single J-Boy and the track Ti Amo explored.

These two tracks along with Goodbye Soleil feature on their forthcoming sixth album Ti Amo released next week.

The band's last album was 2013's bankrupt.

Phoenix are playing pretty much every fesival taking place over the summer. They play Glastonbury at the end of this month, and in France they play Les Eurockéennes,  Vieilles Charrues, Musilac and Beauregard in July


Hugo Barriol: On the Road

Only in France could a performer come quite literally from the underground.

Singer songwriter Hugo Barriol would perform at stations in Paris before winning the Métro Music Award, a music prize for accredited performers on the French capital's transport system.

The award proved a first class ticket for Barriol, who was offered appearances on TV reality music shows as a result. He turned down the opportunities, choosing instead to keep his focus on his solo music career.

The Saint Etienne native says that constantly performing his own work to commuters in the corridors below the French capital helped him to discover his own voice.

The Paris Métro is home to hundreds of talented performers every day, playing every variety of music. The accreditation system ensures that the performers are good enough so they won't put the travellers off their journeys.

The song On the Road is the title track of a six-track EP released on June 16, and he performs a free showcase gig at FNAC Les Halles the same day.



Monday, 5 June 2017

Manchester and London

A weekend of events that again juxtaposes terrorism and music in a way that sees, once again, those who would bring us to our knees only succeed in making us rise up onto our feet.

Our thoughts are again with the victims of these atrocities. After the Bataclan we could only hope nothing like that would ever happen again. 

The memorial concert in Manchester, remembering the victims of the horrific suicide bombing was a triumphant, joyous and colourful commemoration and celebration. It acknowledged the tragedy of what had happened, reflected on it respectfully and with humanity, but it was also true to the youthful and colourful heart of pop music.

It was a difficult balancing act, but one that the event organisers managed with style.

Of course, Sunday's show unfolded in the aftermath of another horrific event in London. Saturday night revellers targeted with brutality and death on the streets of the UK's capital.

London and Manchester are great cities, and two of the musical capitals of the world. Bright and bold places in a world that others would like to see slide into fear and darkness. However hard they try, they will fail, and fail again.

Bands are playing the Bataclan again. Manchester and London can take it. The terrorists can be assured that whatever cause they fight for will be long forgotten before the victims are.

Daesh want us to live in fear, but their failure can be heard in the sound of our children singing along to Ariane Grande.


Friday, 2 June 2017

Festival Art Rock, Saint-Brieuc

There's certainly no shortage of music festivals in France this summer, and June sees events taking place pretty much every weekend.

While big ticket events like Hellfest, Solidays and Main Square attract big names and massive crowds, and are becoming well known to the UK festival goer on account of their value for money and somewhat better conditions that their UK equivalent, some of the smaller event are every bit as worthy of investigating.

One such festival is Art Rock, held in Saint-Brieuc in Brittany, a three-day event that begins today.

On the bill are Julien Doré, La Femme, Cassius, Las Aves and Metronomy. Also playing over the weekend are Agar Agar, Radio Elvis, Paradis and dozens of others.

Many of these are acts I've written about extensively on this blog over the years, it's an impressive line up playing at the venues involved across the town over a packed weekend.

Over and above the musical elements, the event includes art exhibitions, dance and art events in venues across the town.

It's the perfect example of a well-considered line up of acts, combining the more established with the developing artists in an event that gives the audience a weekend immersion in some of the best acts that are currently playing in France.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Benjamin Clementine: Phantom of Aleppoville

Wonderful to hear a new track by the incomparable Benjamin Clementine with the song Phantom of Aleppoville, his first solo release since his debut album.

It's a dramatic and challenging work by an artist who is probably one of the most unique voices to emerge in recent years.

It is not an easy listening experience, there's something of the 21st century Scott Walker in its range and ambition.

It would be easy - and no doubt profitable - for him to slide into delivering fairly safe jazz/soul material, but he's released something that's far more complex and thought provoking instead.

It certainly bears repeated listening, revealing more each time. I'm excited about what might be coming next.

Clementine, who won both a Victoires de la Musique award the Mercury Music Prize in 2015, also recently featured on the recently-released new album by Gorillaz.

He's playing live this month at a number of festivals in mainland Europe, with a set at the We Love Green festival in Paris next week .

He's recently announced details of a UK and European tour, with tickets going on sale from Friday June 2.


Christine and the Queens: Radio 1's Big Weekend

Nice to see Christine and the Queens make an appearance at the Radio 1's Big Weekend event in Hull.

While very much a showcase for the UK's foremost pop music broadcaster, as commercial a proposition as you could imagine from a public service broadcaster, it was reminder of exactly how far Christine and the Queens have come in the past few years.

It was only a few years ago I was reporting on Héloïse Letissier playing at the Great Escape festival in Brighton, one of many French acts hoping to catch the eye and ear of the UK music business and audience. She managed it in a way few could have imagined.

So a performance at an event that celebrates pop at its most popular gives us the chance to reflect that French acts can take a step from success in their home country to widespread recognition in the UK without compromising their art or the very things that make them the unique artists they are.

More artists will hopefully follow. Given the state of the music industry at the moment, where fewer acts are being signed and record companies can take fewer risks, it makes sense for them to take acts that have already achieved a modicum of success in their home countries and develop them for an international audience.

There are plenty of French acts that could easily follow in the synchronised footsteps of Christine and her Queens.