Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011: Année Gainsbourg

With 2011 being the 20th anniversary of the death of Serge Gainsbourg, it was inevitable that there would be a number of 'commemorative' releases to mark the occasion.

Perhaps I'm just a fan, but it seens that the releases have been of a remarkably high standard, from the re-issue of Melody Nelson as a 2CD/DVD extended package, to the album by Lulu Gainsbourg of his father's work to the Alain Bashung release of his version of L'Homme à Tête de Chou, there have been a succession of works that have not only marked his anniversary, but also added significantly to his legacy.

Meanwhile, a great video has surfaced of Lulu Gainsbourg and Vanessa Paradis duetting on the Gainsbourg song Sous le Soleil Exactement.

Off Tv, Universal music group web channel was there to capture this unique music moment.

The duet took place at the Casino de Paris in November, at a concert that also saw -M- and Jane Birkin on stage celebrating the work of Serge, as well as Dani and Sly Johnson.

Gainsbourg had himself played the Casino de Paris, and Lulu's mother was pregnant with him at the time. Paradis of course having collaborated with Serge in his later years.

The performance could have been a rather stilted veneration of an icon, but a figure like Gainsbourg would probably sit uncomfortably on an altar, so this was a celebration rather than a memorial.

And one that marked the continued vigour of one of France's greatest ever musical legacies.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Stage Whisper: L'Hôtel Particulier

Although I mentioned it before it came out, and featured the track Terrible Angels when the video emerged, I thought the release of Charlotte Gainsbourg's Stage Whisper collection merited a more detailed mention.

The album is not entirely new material by any means, collecting live versions of tracks from her two most recent releases 5.55 and 2009's IRM.

The unreleased material continues the sound she developed with Beck, her collaborator on IRM, a cool and intelligent electro pop that has helped establish her as a credible artist in her own right rather than a singer in the shadow of her father's massive reputation.

The live material on disc two focuses on her two recent albums, and a cover of Dylan's Just Like a Woman, a track she recorded with Calexico for the 2007 I'm Not There biopic.

While interesting to hear the live versions, I can't help feel that with just a bit more the studio material could have stood up in its own right as a full new release. Eight tracks may have been not enough, but the quality here is superb and despite being described as 'out takes' they really are as good as anything she's ever released, as Terrible Angels, Paradisco or Memoir testify.

Instead of one double album that's an add-on to her discography, I can't help but think that there really should be two separate albums here, both of which would have their own merits.

Still, a fine release, and one that certainly keeps us waiting for a new album proper from Ms Gainsbourg.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Coeur de Pirate: Noël Blanc

Another track from the Noël! Noël!! Noël!!! album just because its the festive season, this time a French version of a well-known Christmas song interpreted by Coeur de Pirate.

It's another classy track from an album that's certainly head and shoulders above most festive collections, so no problem highlighting another track.

To those unfamiliar with Legrand, who at the age of 80 is perhaps from a different generation to most of those on the album, but as a musician he has been active from the 1950s, and over his lengthy career has worked on over 200 film soundtracks from the French nouvelle vague to musicals like Les Parapluies de Cherbourg as well as being a respected jazz musician in his own right.

He has worked with some of the biggest names on 20th century music, including Sinatra and Streisand, and some of his songs have gone on to be recognised as standards.

His film career has seen him working with some of the giants of cinema, such as Godard, Altman and Clint Eastwood.

He has also won three Oscars, including one for the best original song from a film, Windmills of Your Mind from the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Carla Bruni - Jolis Sapins

A chilled Xmas song by Carla Bruni, just getting into the relaxed mood for the holidays.

The song comes from the Noël ! Noël !! Noël !!! a collection arranged by Michel Legrande featuring performances by Mika, Jamie Cullum, Rufus Wainwright, Madeleine Peyroux, Iggy Pop, Imelda May, Ayo, Carla Bruni, Emilie Simon.

Also on the collection are -M- and Coeur de Pirate.

The collection was compiled to mark Lrgrande's 80th birthday and is a lush old school production with a big band and a relaxed jazzy feel.

If time permits I'll post a couple more tracks from this great collection

French Music Office top 20 for 2011

The French Music Office UK put together a playlist of their favourite tracks of 2011 in a soundcloud playlist.

I thought that given the good work done by those folks down there - and the fact that it's a very decent listen, I'd insert it here to spread it around a bit more.

Click on the link below to enjoy the playlist.

French Music Office Top 20 French Tracks of 2011

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Vive le Roq: Album and Rétro release of the year

This year's I thought I would take a look back at some of the particularly impressive releases I've heard over the past 12 months.

First up, the Vive Le Roq album of the year.

Justice: Audio Video Disco

A release that combines contemporary dance electronica with the ambitions spirit of progressive rock, and sets the standard for contemporary music releases in 2011. Outstanding.

Runner up - M83: Hurry Up We're Dreaming

Rétro release of the year:

Alain Bashung: L'Homme à tête de chou

Posthumous releases often only succeed in diminishing the reputation of an artist, whereas this pays tribute both to Bashung and Gainsbourg and is a welcome addition to the body of work by two of France's most significant artists.

Runner up - Jacno Future (various artists)

OK, so perhaps not the Victoires de la Musique, but you have to start somewhere, and Justice is as good a place as an to start.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Pony Pony Run Run: Just a Song

A new song from Pony Pony Run Run has emerged ahead of their new album which is expected to be released at the end of February 2012.

The track Just a Song was posted on the band's Facebook page as a teaser, the band asking fans to share it more than 500 times to make it available in full.

It's now been revealed in full, and it's a great slice of electro from the trio from Nantes. It's informed by some of the genre pioneers of the 80s but has a flavour of its own and

The new album is a long-awaited follow up to their 2009 debut You Need Pony Pony Run Run, which saw the song Hey You becoming a hit.

The debut album won the band a Victoire de la Musique award in the public choice best newcomer group or artist of the year category, and I'd reckon that their second album will get see them getting even more recognition

The band have confirmed some dates in February, April and May in Germany, Switzerland and France.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Rétro: Marc Almond - The town fell asleep

A look back to one of Marc Almond's wonderful interpretations of Jacques Brel.

The version of La Ville s'endormait is simply wonderful. The song was originally from Brel's final album, 1977's Les Marquises, Almond's version surfacing on his 1989 Jacques album,

The album of Brel covers by Almond also included I'm Coming and the Lockman as well as My Death, although not Jacky, possibly his best know Brel interpretation, which became a hit single for Almond.

Almond was influenced by Brel from an early age, from hearing the versions of My Death performed by Bowie and Alex Harvey, and the Scott Walker versions of Brel's work.

The Jacques collection takes a more traditional approach to song and arrangement that some of Almond's more experimental and electronic work, and it really deserves to be better known.

The album appears to be out of print now, so if you find a copy be sure to pick it up while you can.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Mylène Farmer: Du Temps

A new single from Mylene Farmer and a new 'best of' CD have just been released,

The album, entitled 2001-2011 is her second compilation, her previous Les Mots (released in 2001) having sold over 1.5 million copies.

The album includes two previously unreleased tracks, one being her new single Du Temps.

The song is very much an electro-pop work, and sees her working with long-time collaborator Laurent Boutonnat. Farmer's last release, her eighth album Bleu Noir was her first without Boutinnat's input, and saw her working with Moby RedOne and Darius Keeler.

I'm not sure whether the song is more recent that Bleu Noir. It may be the song was recorded before Bleu Noir and is only now being released, or possibly that they are again working together. Boutonnat certainly directed the video, so it may well mark a return to working with her long-running collaborator.

While I'm sure fans will be awaiting new material with impatience, and greatest hits albums can be seen as a quick cash-grab from an artist, there are plenty of people I'm sure who first became aware of Farmer on the back of the success of Bleu Noir and who will welcome the opportunity to catch up on her previous work, and with ten years between this one and her previous collection, it's certainly not been hurried.

With three tracks from Bleu Noir reaching number one in France, farmer holds the record for number ones in the country. Will Du Temps make it 13?

Monday, 12 December 2011

The X Factor: Matthew Raymond-Barker

With the dust settling on Little Mix becoming the first group to win the X Factor in the UK, I thought it worth a mention of the programme in France.

The UK programme is a major cultural event, with serious newspaper debate and TV news coverage, and arguably the biggest television 'event' of the year. The fact that it establishes (for better or worse) the careers of a generation of pop stars is almost secondary.

Meanwhile, there is a French version of the show. There have been two series so far, the first on W9 in 2009, the most recent on more widely know channel M6 running up to June 2011. It replaced Novelle Star, the French variant of Pop Idol on M6, and while the first series was a much smaller scale show than in the UK, the second series aimed to emulate some of the success of the UK programme.

Similar to the UK programme, there were public auditions in theatres around the country, a bootcamp in Paris and work at the judge's houses in London, Marrakesh, Canada and France.

There were four categories of artist,under 25 male, under 25 female, groups and over 25s.

The judges for the second series were Nouvelle star winner singer/songwriter Christophe Willam, veteran musician and composer Olivier Schultheir, singer Véronic DiCaire and musician and manager Henry Padovani.

Sandrine Corman played the Dermon O'Leary presenter role.

Interestingly the winner was Matthew Raymond-Barker, an English student, who took the cash prize and recording deal with Sony. There were only just over 1,000 votes between him and the runner up. The Londoner had appeared briefly in the UK programme the year before, getting rejected at the bootcamp stage.

He auditioned for the french programme while he was living in France to improve his French language at the University of Toulouse for his course at the University of Bath.

In the rounds his song choice was fairly safe, with songs by Robbie Williams, Jessie J, U2 and Michael Jackson featuring. There were a few French numbers including Ma Philosophie and Ne Retiens Pas Tes Larmes by Amel bent, Ca Fait Mal by Christophe Maé amd A la Favour de l'automne by Tété

The final was watched by 2.4 million viewers, a 10.8% audience share, the number of viewers peaking with the early audition programmes which reached up to 3.3million with an audience share of just over 13%.

In comparison, the UK version had 13.1 million viewers, with a peak of 15.5 million. Although down slightly on the previous year's 17.2 million viewers for the final, the series had an average of 11 million viewer throughout the series.

Matthew Raymond-Barker released his winner's song, a cover of Daniel Balavoine's Vivre ou Survivre.

In the UK, every winner's sing has reached number one, most over the Christmas week. Joe McElderry made the top spot the following week despite Rage Against The Machine getting to number one over the Christmas week.

Raymond-Barker's release reached number 94 in the French charts.

Matthew Raymond Barker - Vivre ou Survivre (Winner Single) @ X Factor France 2011 from Rich Lorenzo on Vimeo.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Mr President: It's Christmas

A great festive tune by Mr President, released following his debut album Number One that came out earluer in 2011.

I already featured the great track The Best Is Yet To Come which was released as a single.

Mr President is a project from Patchworks, also known as Bruno Hovart, who has also worked under the names Uptown Funk Empire, The Dynamics and Metropolitan Jazz Affair.

It's Christmas, but with a great solid heavy funk flavour.

The song's been released in a limited edition by Favourite Recordingd in a suitably retro coloured vinyl seven inch.

The single is released on December 12.

Click on the link below to give it a listen on Soundcloud.

Mr President - It's Christmas Time

Friday, 2 December 2011

M83 - Hurry Up We're Dreaming

M83 are getting quite a lot of attention in the UK at the moment, on account of a gig in London and a session on BBC 6 music, bringing their classy electro pop sound to a far wider audience than normally gets the chance to hear one of France's finest acts.

M83 have been active since 2001, when their eponymous debut album came out. Nicolas Fromageau left the band after their 2003 second album Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts, Anthony Gonzalez continuing under the M83 name.

Fromageau would go on to form the rather wonderful Team Ghost, who I featured earlier this year with their Record Store Day release split 7' with Anoraak.

M83's first post-Fromageau release was the album Before The Dawn Heals Us, which came out in 2005. Gonzalez became established as a remixer, working with Bloc Party, Placebo, Goldfrapp and Depeche Mode.

Other albums that followed included Digital Shades Volume 1, an ambient work that came out in 2007 and Saturdays=Youth, released the following year.

In 2008 M83 supported the Kings of Leon in their UK tour, and the Killers in the US. Spring 2010 saw the release of the soundtrack album for the film Black Heaven

M83's most recent album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - a double album - was released in October 2011 with the track Midnight City being released as the first track.

The album got to number 15 in the US Billboard charts and Number 1 in the US Dance/Electronic album chart.

An appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show in November in the US gave them a huge profile boost, and they're due back in the US in early January.

The next single from the album will be the track Reunion, due to be released in Feb 2012.

M83 are touring in the UK in January, and have dates in Australia the following month, followed by more shows across mainland Europe.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Rétro: Dusty Springfield - If You Go Away

A retro look at a version of Brel's classic If You Go Away by Dusty Springfield that made an unexpected appearance on prome time UK TV in an edition of the coutry's most-watched soap opera Coronation Street.

Springfield's version is based on the English-language translation by Rod McKuen but also includes some of the original lyrics from Brel's 1959 Ne Me Quitte Pas.

She was not the first to cover the song, with versions already being recorded by Barbara, Marlene Dietrich, Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey and Brenda Lee, so it was well on its way to being a standard, but her cover would have certainly have introduced it to a British pop audience.

Dusty Springfield's version was included in her 1967 The Look of Love album, her third, which was released under the title Where Am I Going in the UK.

At the time she was one of the most popular female singers in the UK, and the album did much to establish her credentials as a serious artist.

She would become one of the biggest-selling female artists in the UK of the 1960s.

It would again be associated with her as it would decades later feature in a musical about her life that was staged in 2000.

Editorial: December 2011

Another great month for Vive Le Roq, and while not a record month, it was not far off.

There were slightly fewer posts in November than normal perhaps, but that's down to workload and family commitments, not any less enthusiasm for the music.

If anything there has been more great releases recently than ever (Justice, Bashung, various Gainsbourgs..) so there's no shortage of material to feature, just a shortage of time to get it all on.

Hopefully in December I'll get a few reviews on, as well as regular looks at other new releases and looks back at older material.

I'll also have a few festive goodies over the next few weeks as well.

It's always good to get some feedback, so feel free to get in touch either by comment ov via email. I can be contacted on johnkilbride AT hotmail DOT com, without the space and with the correct symbols.

Merci et à bientôt