Thursday, 31 March 2016

Festival: La Route du Rock

The first ten names have been unveiled for this summer's La Route du Rock festival, the major music
event in Saint-Malo that takes place twice a year.

It's usually a well-chosen bill, and this year looks no exception. La Femme are at the top of the bill,  having just released the first track from their long-awaited second album.

Tindersticks, that most classy and Franco friendly act are also there.

Minor Victories, the band featuring Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite,Justin Lockey from  Editors and Rachel Goswell from Slowdive are playing.

Meanwhile,  indie veterans Lush appear after a 20 year absence. Their  forthcoming EP Blind Spot, due out next month, will be their first release in 20 years  since they announced their reformation last year.

Suuns, Kevin Morby, Julian Holter , Haelos and Rival Consoles are also on the bill, while more acts will be announced in coming months.

Brittany Ferries is offering UK music fans a package deal on transport and a three day pass with a camping pitch for the event at a very reasonable £155

2016's  La Route du Rock festival event on August 11 to August 14.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Johnny Hallyday - Live in Brussels

This weekend saw France's biggest star pay tribute to the victims of last week's terrorist atrocity in Belgium with Johnny Hallyday playing concerts in the country.

The shows in Brussels on March 26 and 27 were scheduled as part of his current Rester Vivant tour, and while some artists chose to cancel events in the light of what had happened, Hallyday's shows went on, albeit amid tighter security.

The March 26 show was screened live at cinemas across France, allowing a massive audience beyond the 11,000 in the hall to share the event.

Although born in France, Johnny's family's roots are of course Belgian.

Hallyday performed Jacques Brel's Quand on n'a que l'amour at the close of the concert, a track he's performed many times before. The song was of course performed at the official memorial event for the victims of the Paris attacks at the end of last year by singers Nolwenn Leroy, Yael Naïm and Camélia Jordana.

To these ears anyway it was perhaps a more appropriate choice of song to mark the occasion than La Marseillaise.

Johnny's concert is being screened again in 300 cinemas across France on April 8.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Le Vasco: Easy Online

A new video by Le Vasco, with a clip for the track Easy Online.

The song features on their new EP entitled We're Not Natural Anymore.

The video follows the track Neon Blue that emerged in February this year. It's a similar nod to the early days of online culture and the strange dated futurism of 90s tech.

Their website is a similar flashback to the old days of website styles, when things were a bit more homespun and concepts like taste and professional design hadn't yet emerged.

No iTunes or YouTube no Facebook or Twitter. The internet was a very different place back then, things were much stranger and much of today's digital landscape simply wasn't there.

Le Vasco's Passion Things debut album was released in 2013, their six track self-titled EP the year before that.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Festival: Rock en Seine 2016

Details of the first names on the bill for this year's Rock en Seine festival have emerged, with some exciting names confirmed so far.

This year's event features the theme Let's Dance, organisers saying that it's time to warm up and prepare your best dance moves. Perhaps it's a nod to the late David Bowie, perhaps also a reminder of the city's party spirit that cannot ever be exxtinguished.

The three-day event at the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud near Paris is held at the end of August, attracting an audience of 120,000.

Iggy Pop, The Last Shadow Puppets, Massive Attack and Foals are at the top of the bill. Sigur Ros, Sum 41 and Bring me the Horizon are also there, as are CHVRCHES, Clutch, Wolfmother and Damien Marley.

Significantly, Eagles of Death Metal are playing in what will no doubt be an emotional appearance. Josh Homme of the Eagles of Death Metal collaborated with Iggy Pop on his recently released Post Pop Depression album.

Plenty of other acts on the bill, and more still to be added.

The festival features some top international acts, but there are also a well-curated collection of French acts. Cassius, Casseurs Flowters, Caravan Palace and Grand Blanc are among the home-grown talent

Rock en Seine 2016 is held on August 26, 27 and 28.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Bruxelles, capitale de l'Europe

Another terrorist atrocity at the heart of Europe, again we stand in solidarity with the victims, their families and friends.

If there's one lesson from the recent attacks,  it is that the world is a smaller place than it ever has been, and what happens in any city affects us all.

Monday, 21 March 2016

La Femme: Sphynx

A new track by La Femme, with the track Spyhnx emerging ahead of the release of their second album.

La Femme's debut, 2013's Psycho Tropical Berlin made a massive impression both artistically and commercially, earning them the breakthrough album award at the Victoires de la Musique Award in 2014.

The album was a berath of fresh air, the Biarritz-based act's take on psychedelic-informed electro rock a bold stand against musical blandness and a reminder, if we needed one, that cutting-edge French  music was by no means just the preserve of artists working in the field of dance music.

La Femme promise their new album will be "More everything", meaning "More guitar, more rock, more electro, more madness." I doubt they'll disappoint.

The date of the new album's release hasn't been confirmed, but they've got a few dates for their diaries already.

La Femme play a sold-out show at L'Olympia in Paris on March 23 and are in the UK in July to play the Secret Garden Party festival before playing the O2 in Shepherd's Bush in London on November 17.

They've announced a date at the Zénith in Paris on January 27 net year.

Pain-Noir: Sterne

A new clip by Pain-Noir, with a video for the song Sterne.

The song features on his self-titled debut album which was released in October last year on Tomboy Lab.

Pain-Noir centres around François-Régis Croisier, the video for the new song is he says is a declaration of love for his family and his Auvergne roots.

It's a lovely piece of work, complimenting the hand-made feel of the music, shot through with nostalgic rustic charm.

I featured Pain-Noir last year shortly before the release of the album, it's been a joy to see him get the critical acclaim he deserves.

Pain-Noir plays at the Café de la Danse in Paris on March 26 and at La Defense as part of the Chorus festival on April 1.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Gaspard Royant: Making of new album clip

A mini documenatry about the making of the new album by Gaspard Royant, this blog's favourite exponent of the Haute Savoie Doo Wop Garage and Roll sound.

He talks about working with Scottish music legend Edwyn Collins who produced the album, and their shared love of Northern Soul. There's a mention of his mixing the collection in Helmsdale in Scotland. It's an appropriately stylishly shot short giving some flavour of what we can expect next month.

If there's any justice the link with Edwyn Collins will win him some much-deserved radio airplay and some media attention in the UK.

The new album, entitled Have You Met Gaspard Royant is released on April 8 and is available to pre-order in a variety of formats now, including CD and vinyl, with three tracks available immediately to download with every order.

He plays La Maroquinerie in Paris on April 11, and in Strasbourg on April 21, but before then has a show in London on March 25 at the Zoo Zoo club at the Blues Kitchen Camden.

St Patrick's Day

Since this blog was launched six years ago, I've always had a French-Irish link for St Patrick's Day, the annual celebration of Irish culture that is marked in France as much as anywhere else.

Maybe it's because I spent a lot of time with the Irish community when I lived in Paris, or maybe it's a shared Celtic culture across Scotland, Ireland and Brittany but I've always felt Ireland  and Irish culture was much appreciated in France.

This year of course has some extra significance, with 2016 marking the centenery of the Easter Rising, the rebellion that led to the establishment of a free Ireland.  The inspiration of the French Revolution was apparent in Ireland's aspiration to freedom, equality and brotherhood. And like the French Revolution, a terrible cost to all in the long road to freedom.

There's a quote attributed to Chinese premier Zhou Enlai that the significance of the French revolution was too soon to say, almost 200 years after it happened. With scars from Ireland's struggle still to heal properly even after 100 years, there's always good cause to celebrate the peace that now exists.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Florent Pagny: Encore

A trip to Cuba for the new video by Florent Pagny.

The song Encore comes from his album Habana, which sees him immerse himself in the style of the Caribbean's most celebrated musical nation.

Pagny's most recent studio album was 2013's Vieillir avec toi, a number one album in France. There's been a live collection since then, but he's probably been most visible as a coach on the French edition of the TV talent show The Voice.

His new album sees him perform in Spanish, the third time he's released an album in that language. The album was recorded in Havana and was written and composed by Cuban star Raul Paz.

Raul Paz lived in France for several years after he completed his musical studies in Havana, before returning to his home country in 2010. His time in France led to his being nicknamed the French Cuban, and during his time outside Cuba he established himself as an artist at the forefront of reinventing his country's music scene. His 1999 debut Cuba Libre was a massive international seller, subsequent work seeing him combining elements of traditional Cuban music with more modern flavours from hip hop and rock.

Pagny became interested in Cuba during his time living in Miami, a city home to many Cubans who left the country following the revolution and recent changes in the relations between the USA under Obama and Cuba have brought the once divided community closer together.

Cuba is again in the international spotlight, and a softening in America's attitude to the country has benefitted both Americans and Cubans. Florent, aware of the scent of change in the air, has taken his French style and combined it with a Cuban flavour to create an interesting mélange.

Habana is released on April 29.

Renaud: Tour dates confirmed

The resurrection of Renaud continues, with the confirmation that the legendary singer is to tour later this year.

2016 has seen the writing of  a whole new chapter in the biography of the singer that only a few years ago would have been all but unthinkable. But Renaud is back, sober, in (reasonable) voice and releasing a new album and undertaking a tour.

The tour - appropriately dubbed the Phénix Tour - sees him play dates in October, November, December, January and February. He's spoked that he intended to tour, but seeing the extensive list of dates published makes it finally concrete.

The first show is in Evry on October 1, and there are five nights in Paris at the Zénith that month before shows in most of the major towns and cities of France.

If there is anticipation about the forthcoming album, there will be even more for the opportunity to see Renaud live. Few would have put money on Renaud returning to the studio, never mind the concert hall and while there will certainly still be doubts about his ability, there will certainly be much goodwill surrounding his return.

He last undertook a full tour following his 2006 Rouge Sang album, documented in a subsequent live album.

Renaud says his forthcoming album is his most beautiful since his Mistral Gagnant collection 25 years ago. The single Toujours Debout certainly gives a good imperssion.

Renaud's new album is released on April 8 and tickets for the tour dates go on sale from March 17.

Happy Birthday to Us!

March 16 2010 is a day that will go down in history. Perhaps. A few fumbling words about a recently
departed chanteur, a  few videos embedded, and the Vive le Roq French music blog took its first steps into the internet.

I'd been thinking about it for quite some time. I've always had a massive interest in French music and never understood why it's not better know in the UK and elsewhere in the anglo sphere, and  finally put fingers to laptop six years ago to make it happen. I was inspired by the thought that it was better to do something - however wonky or imperfect - than to have a concept for something better that never sees the light of day.

That first year saw a big total of 24 articles on the site. Fewer than I'd normally manage any month in the last few years.

I reckon most  blogs start with good intentions, but wither on the vine as outside demands take their toll, and interest in the subject matter wanes. Our tastes change over time, our interests develop in different ways. Blogs tend to be a personal take on a subject, and people change.

And the subject matter of a blog can diminish over time. A TV programme that the blog was based on goes off air, a political party changes its direction, a cause is resolved or becomes mired in lethargy. Things can get stale, and blogs die off as a consequence

But over the years working on this blog has been a pleasure. I've found so much new music I might not have  previously have heard, and discovered so much that I've enjoyed hugely.

My passion for the subject has increased hugely, and it's been both a learning experience and an opportunity to share some of this. From initially struggling to find things to write about, I've found that in recent years the issue has been more one of trying to fit everything in as best I can.

As I said, in the first year I managed 24 articles. In 2015 I managed over 500.

What have been the highlights of the past six years? It's been immense to see acts go from critical acclaim to massive success, the likes of Daft Punk, M83 and Christine and the Queens, but it's also been amazing to discover the kind of acts that never seem to get the exposure they deserve in the UK, acts like Bagarre or Grand Blanc or Feu! Chatterton. Hopefully this blog goes some way towards putting that right.

One personal highlight was hearing Sudden Death of Stars for the first time, and then seeing them live 12 months later, upstairs in a bar in Rennes on a bill with Orval Carlos Sibelius.

There have been festivals and new releases written about, TV appearances and soundcloud uploads. I've enjoyed covering things from the biggest veteran French acts, but I've also been hugely impressed by work that's been shared by developing artists who are a long way from the recognition they merit.

There is much we have done, there is also so much more we could have done but didn't have time. But that's the nature of blogging. I don't do this for a living, I have to fit it around work and family and all the other demands on my time. I've got more organised over the years, and what goes on the blog is hopefully not only better, but more regular too.

I'd like to thank some of the support I've received over the past few years, from the good people at the Bureau Export in London, as well as from the Institut Francais. Also the French Music Podcast page on Facebook, for both inspiring me with new music and for allowing me to share some of my selections on their page. And a warm thanks to all the publicists, managers and artists who have taken time to contact me and suggest things I might like and who have helped me out in a variety or ways, from arranging interviews to passing on the music.

So we're six years down the line. Still not perfect, still not exactly as I'd want things to be, but in a better place that could have been expected.  I might not manage as many articles this year as I did last year, but I decided to aim for longer and better written pieces this time, make it a but more professional and a bit better organised. It'll be a challenge, but there's plenty to write about and no shortage of great music to explore.

Here's to the next six years,

John K

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Festival: Beauregard

Full details have been published of the bill for this year's Beauregard festival in Normandy at the end of June this summer.

Thursday June 30 , the Day Before sees Les Insus headlining, and sets from Gandi Lake and Last Train.

Friday July the first sees the event get underway in full, with Feu! Chatterton and Nekfeu Rone and Nuit. International acts include The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Beck, the Chemical Brothers.

The Saturday includes La Femme, Brigitte, The Avener, Fakear and Lilly Wood and the Prick,. Other acts include Robert Plant, The Kills and The Horrors.

Sunday sees sets from Grand Parc, Grand Blanc, Jeanne Added, Jain. Lou Doillon and Louise Attaque, alongside PJ Harvey Jurassic 5 and others.

For all it has many huge international acts, there are plenty of French acts that we've covered regularly in this blog as well. A well chosen selection.

It's the eighth time the event has been held. Last year more than 80,000 people attended the event, with sets from among others Christine and the Queens, Sting, Lenny Kravitz  and Scorpions. It's some a long way from the first time the festival was held was in 2009, a two day event for 20,000 that saw the likes of Pete Doherty, Charlie Winston, Mogwai and Editors play.

It's held at the Domaine de Beauregard park in Hérouville-Saint-Clair and a variety of tickets from single day to multi-day are available.

Christine and the Queens: Live in London

A London show tonight by Christine and the Queens, with a sold-out show at Koko by France's number one act.

Christine's album Chaleur Humaine finally got a proper UK release in February, she remarked on it as something of a full circle, having gone from an artist who found acceptance in London's clubs and who subsequently developed into one of France's most significant artists in recent years, to returning triumphantly to a London venue to perform live.

It's no surprise that she's playing in the UK, having already made a significant impression in North America with live dates and appearances. She's been met with critical acclaim and recognition from other artists. Her appeal should easily go beyond the traditional francophone audience, and hopefully she'll get the attention she deserves in the UK.

She's off to North America next month, with shows at Coachella and gigs in LA, Boston and New York.

Christine and the Queens have another date in Londond scheduled at the Roundhouse on May 3. Hopefully we'll see more of her in the UK before too long.

Jean-Michel Jarre: Electronica World Tour

Details have finally emerged of a forthcoming tour from Jean-Michel Jarre following closely behind the second volume of his Electronica collaboration albums.

He had already confirmed two festival dates and suggested that more shows were on their way, today's announcement sees shows across Europe from October, preceded by festival shows in June and July.

 One fascinating prospect is his only UK festival appearance, which will be a show at Jodrell Bank in the UK, where he headlines the three-day long Bluedot festival in the shadow of a massive radio telescope.

Alongside other events in the 'festival of discovery' there will be appearances by artists including Underworld, Mercury Rev and Public Service Broadcasting.

The tour proper begins in Cardiff in Wales on October 4, with dates in the UK, Scotland and Ireland. He then takes in a massive list of European countries, with shows in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

There are then a run of gigs in France, with Lyon, Dijon, Clermont Ferrand, Nantes and the final date in Paris on December 31.

It's likely that there will be more dates in 2017, as there are no shows outside Europe listed so far. I'd be very surprised if he doesn't take his show across the Atlantic or elsewhere.

Jarre's new album, the second volume of his Electronica collaborations entitles Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise is released on May 6. This volume features work with Primal Scream, Jeff Mills, Sebastien Tellier, Rone and the Pet Shop Boys amongst others.

Ahead of the album's release, the track What You Want, a collaboration with Peaches, is now available to download. He's also got a limited vinyl release of the track Exit coming out as a Record Store Day exclusive.

Tickets for his UK dates - his first shows in the country since 2010  - go on sale on Friday.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Fauve ≠ Azulejos

Another track has emerged from Fauve ahead of the release of the forthcoming live collection that
documents the spoken-work collective's live activities.

The track azulejos will feature on the album 150.900, a number that signifies the number of kilometers the collective have travelled in their tours.

Fauve have established themselves as one of France's most significant acts over the period of the past three years, their live reputation one of the key factors in their appeal.

They followed the release of the two volumes of the Vieux Freres albums with an extensive schedule of live dates in France and beyond. The act want the new live album to be more than just a collection of live version of tracks already available on the studio albums, but want it to be more of an audio documentary of the band while they were touring.

The new track comes after the release of a live version of the track Blizzard,a track from their debut EP.

The new live album is released on April 1 and is already available to pre-order in a variety of formats.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Superbus: Strong and Beautiful

A new single by Superbus, with the song Strong and Beautiful heralding the arrival of the band's sixth album.

The band, fronted by Jennifer Ayache, last released an album in 2012, their Sunset collection reaching the top five in France. Its predecessor, 2009's Lova Lova reached number 2 in France.

The band took a break following Sunset,  Ayache released the solo album +001 in 2014. Last year she cancelled a solo tour and confirmed that Superbus would be returning to action.

Since then, the Superbus version of the Téléphone track Un Autre Monde was the highlight of last year's ça, c'est vraiment nous tribute album to the veteran French act.

The 2016 version of the band is a four piece, drummer Greg Jacks parting with the band last year.

It's rumoured that the new album could be coming out in June and the band are expected to release tour dates shortly. 

Meanwhile, a show has been confirmed at Caen on March 8 for Virgin Radio and a show will be taking place in Calais on April 10.

Interview: Feu! Chatterton

I was absolutely delighted when Feu! Chatterton agreed to answer a few questions via email for vive le roq.

The band have been firm favourites of this site since they came to my attention thanks to coverage in Les Inrocks, and their debut album Ici le Jour (a tout enseveli) was a perfect package that surpassed expectations. Literate, intelligent and distinctive, they've become one of the most exciting voices to have emerged in France in recent years

Needless to say, I wasn't the only critic to welcome their album,  a reaction which delighted the band. "It has been such a great pleasure to see how well received it was by the media but also by the people.

"By the time we started our album tour (that we called “Ici le Tour”, if you get the very subtle wordplay here...), almost all the main French national media had already talked about us, and apart from a very few of them, in such a positive way that we couldn’t think it was real.

"We still had quite an apprehension about going on tour with this kind of media hype pressure, and maybe not fill up all of our gigs, or even find some empty concert halls...but we quickly found out that people were here, coming to the gigs, and now we’re really happy about it."

The band have been attracting attention for a while before the album emerged. Were they concerned about the weight of expectation?

"Let’s say it took a while, but not that much. Yes, a whole year between the debut EP and the debut album is quiet a lot, but in the meantime we did a lot of things!

"We actually recorded a second EP called Bic Medium, that had been released in April 2015, right between the first EP and the album. And it was quiet a piece of work for us, because it’s a 14 minutes track, played in live conditions, and recorded one shot.

"30 takes for one winner and it took us weeks just to rehearse the track...We wanted this track to be kind of collection track, a submarine track, that would be know just by a few, that’s why we made it with a limited 300 ex edition, only in vinyl.

"But to answer the question, we were definitely having had expectations for the first LP, and we didn’t want time to be our limit for our experimentations in studio. That’s part of the reason we signed an artist contract with Barclay, they would offer us time to do exactly what we wanted to to.

"And even with these three weeks we spend in a Swedish studio and the two next months in Paris for the additional tracks, we had to postpone for a month the release of the album because we weren’t satisfied enough with the mixing part."

The band has been around since 2011, how has Feu Chatterton! and their material developed in that period?

"In 2011 we were just three people (Arthur, Clément and Sébastien) and we were a bit tired and upset of the music we were playing with our previous band. It was a mix of slam, jazz and funk music, but everything was complex, from the music itself to the rehearsals. When Arthur and I decided to play a more simple music, trying to sing our lyrics - not tell them as a slam music - without being afraid anymore of doing a regular rock and sometimes pop music, Feu! Chatterton was really born.

"So at this moment when we kind of split the previous band, we composed and wrote a big amount of songs. Then Seb who was abroad for his studies came back, I had myself to leave too and they kept writing with Arthur, many new songs. At the end of the year, we were back the three of us, with a shit load of songs that we wanted to play live. We found among our friends Antoine playing the bass, and Raphaël the drum player, and we started to play gigs all around Paris for about two years, still composing and writing as much as we could."

Feu! Chatterton seem very aware of past influences, whether in art literature and music. I was keen to know What particular artists, whether working in art, music or literature etc were an influenced.

"We are indeed aware of past influences, and contemporary ones too. In literature, Arthur who writes the lyrics had been influenced as much by Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Fante, Bolano as by Booba, a kind of hardcore rap singer.

"For the music, it’s even wider I think: as each of us has many different personal tastes, we kind of mixed up Apex Twin, Miles Davis, LCD Soundsystem, The Beatles, Boards of Canada, Radiohead, Television, Chet Baker, Portishead, Fela Kuti...From time to time we end up agreeing about something, and we do a song!"

There is also a very modern feel to the album, how does balance this with older influences?

"It’s not really an effort to balances things together, old influences and contemporary music. When you compose music, or record it, you need to listen to things you like, and it can be from you personal CD collection, or from your friend who really needs to make you listen to this amazing track.

"At the end, you just do as your emotions tell you to do, no matter if you took a Brahms type melody and played it with a  Roland SH101 right back from the 80es. On the top of it, if Arthur wants to speak about an “amour courtois” with a slice of hardcore French slang vocabulary, let’s do it if it sounds good."

Feu! Chatterton sing in French, does that make you them accessible to a French audience, and do they consider it  a barrier to an anglophone audience?

"It’s not even something we take in consideration actually. We started the band with the only intention of playing music with Arthur’s lyrics, and they were in French so we did with what we had!

"But stepping back a little bit, we realise now that music in French is truly much more appreciated than in the 2000s or even the early 2010s. It’s a chance for us, but we didn’t really think about it when we started the band. As for the anglophone audience, come on, learn French guys!"

So would they ever consider recording your songs in English,like Christine and the Queens did recently?

"No, it would twist our songs to try to translate them by ourselves. We are not native speakers in English (as you can see in this interview...), and our lyrics is 50% of our work: we would be screwed in doing this. However, if we have hell of a good text that we love in English, maybe we’ll do a song!2

So will we see them play in the UK? "For the UK, we’d love to come over and play gigs, would you invite us?"

I love the use of a painting by Redon on the cover. How did that come about?

"We were looking for a good cover for months. We tried so many things, ask so many people, and suddenly, our manager came out of nowhere with this painting, saying: what about that?

"As we are five people in the band, constantly debating for every single thing, the fact that everybody liked it in the first place made us know that we had the right cover. It was simply beautiful and made sense at the same time: this melancholic woman, who could actually be a man, was all we where telling in the album. And these colours, yellow and blue were definitely the colours who where looking for our music."

2016 sees Feu! Chatterton play monthly dates at Le Trianon in Paris. Why that particular venue and what can we expect?

"The dates in the Trianon started in October and should end in May. We wanted to create a monthly meeting with our city, Paris, in order to offer something familiar to the audience during our tour. For us it’s also the occasion to see our family ! We love to play there, the gigs are sold out and we feel that people feel pleased as much as we do, to see us playing at home. For the upcoming dates at Le Trianon, I think we will try to make some surprises, guest stars, unreleased songs, helicopters..."

Finally, the album the album of the year 2015. Congratulations! What message would you have for an anglophone audience?

"I’d say I know we weren’t the best in rock music, and you guys had always the creme de la creme in the UK, but please listen to French music, it’s not that bad ! Come on, en plus le français c’est facile mec ! And thank you Viveleroq! "

Picture  credit at top: Xfigpower Creative Commons 

Brigitte: L'échappée Belle

I missed this when it emerged towards the end of last month, but a new clip by Brigitte certainly continues the unique style of one of France's most distinctive acts in recent years.

The act re-issued their A Bouche Que Veux-Tu in November last year to mark the success of the collection, having sold over 100,000 copies since it originally came out in 2014.

It's their third album, which saw them nominated for a best female artist award in the 2015 Victoires de la musique award and made it into the top ten in France.

The new video is an animated affair, directed by Aurélie Saada, who along with Sylvie Hoarau make up the duo. Saada has been behind previous Brigitte videos, noteably the clip for the title track of A Bouche Que Veux-Tu, which was the album's first single.

Artwork for the video was by Delphine Cauly, the artist also behind the cover of the album.

Brigitte have a full diary of live dates ahead of them in coming months, with shows around France until May, and festival dates over the summer

Thursday, 3 March 2016

We Are Match: Radical

A new video by We Are Match, with a memorable clip for the track Radical.

It comes from the Paris-based band's debut album Shores which was released in September last year.

I featured We Are Match last year as one of this blog's New Acts following the release of their Speaking Machines track, and again in September with the release of The Shark as a single just ahead of their debut album.

The video for Radical is possibly one of my favourites so far this year, like a particularly colourful, gory and surreal port-Tarantino children's book . Someone should publish it as a paperback edition.

Musically the band serve up another portion of flavoursome electro indie, instantly appealing and hard to forget.

We Are Match are touring at the moment and play at the Gaîté Lyrique in Paris on March 31.

Eurovision 2016: Amir - J'ai Cherché

The video for France's 2016 Eurovision Song Contest entry J'ai Cherché by Amir has emerged, in the run-up to this year's final in Stockholm in Sweden in May.

Amir Haddad was a finalist in season three of the French version of The Voice in  2014, part of team Jenifer. Previously he had taken part in an Israeli TV music competition, and released an album of work in Hebrew in 2011.

The song is an upbeat and positive number without resorting to the kind of novelty that Eurovision has become notorious for. It has of course an appropriately inoffensively uplifting video.

The song was co-written by Amir, and features some English lyrics, quite unusual for a French Eurovision entry.

France has of course had a mixed run of entries in Eurovision in recent years. Their last win was in 1977.

Last year France recieved only four points for the song N'Oubliez Pas by Lisa Angell, while in 2014 they finished last for the first time in France's Eurovision history with the track Moustache by Twin Twin, a song that picked up only two points.

2013's Amandine Bourgoise performance of L'enfer et Moi came in a 23rd,  while in 2012 Anggun's Echo (You and I) came 22nd.

France last reached the top ten in the final results with patricia Kaas in 2009 performing Et s'il fallait le faire.

Forty three contries are taking part this year, equalling the previous record number. A number of countries return after an absence, and Australia takes part again. France qualify straight to the final as the country is one of the five major contributors to the European Broadcasting Union.

The Eurovision Song Contest final takes place on May 14.

M83: Do It, Try It

Details of the new M83 album emerged only the other day, and almost immediately the first track from the
Junk comes out.

The much-awaited new album comes out on April 8, their proper follow up to 2011's international success Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.

The new single suggests a flavour of 80s nostalgia, something that's been present in much of their earlier work.

In a press release Anthony Gonzalez said: "I want to show different sides of me on this album."

"I want to come back with something more intimate, yet somehow with…less me!" 

"All my albums have layers of eclecticism to them, but with this album I wanted to take that even further."

About the album's title, he said: "Anything we create today is going to end up being space junk at one point anyway, and I find it really fascinating and scary at the same time - beautiful too in a way.

"I have this image of pieces of humanity floating in space, lost forever. It also means that nowadays everything goes so fast and everybody is kind of throwing away art in a certain manner.

"People will listen to an album for instance and just pick a track they like to put on a playlist. They're not going to take the time to listen to an album anymore because they have to jump on the next thing"

Guests on the 15-track album include Beck and Susanne Sundfor.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Serge Gainsbourg: 25th anniversary

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Serge Gainsbourg, an artist who casts a shadow longer than most across the world of French music.

25 years have not lessened his place in the pantheon of artists, for many Gainsbourg is the only French musician they can name.

I have written about Gainsbourg many times, and inevitably will again. Despite listening to his work for decades I still find myself discovering work I wasn't previously aware of, whether collaborations, cinema or TV.

Possibly because he covered so much ground musically in his career, from jazz to rock, chanson to reggae, yéyé to funk, there always seens to be something new to discover in Gainsbourg's work.

Musical tributes to Gainsbourg are being paid across France, this weekend TV5Monde's Acoustic show presented versions by Jehro, Housse de Racket, Ariane Moffatt, Anne Sila, Ibeyi, Thomas Dutronc and others, all casting their own light on Gainsbourg, each revealing a different aspect of one of France's most treasured artists.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

M83: New Album details

A date's been confirmed for the new album by M83, with their new collection Junk expected to be released on April 6.

It's the band's first full album since 2011's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, the album that contained their international hit Midnight City and established the band's leader Anthony Gonzalez reputation as the world's foremost purveyor of cosmic widescreen indie.

It was a landmark French music release in recent years, a collection that showed that French music didn't have to be dance orientated to be significant both commercially and critically.

The music on the album went on to be used extensively in adverts, on TV and in cinema.

M83 have since that album released the soundtrack of the Tom Cruise film Oblivion in 2013.  Other tracks by the band have featured in high profile movies including the Divergent movies as well as The Fault in our Stars.

Collaborations with Haim and Jean-Michel Jarre were released last year, and the earlier albums recorded by the band before they made Hurry Up, We're Dreaming have been re-issued.

M83 have live dates across the USA and a show in Canada next month,  some dates in Asia in May, more North American dates follow this.

They play the Solidays in Paris at the end of June, garorock festival and the Eurockéennes festival on July 1.

Renaud: Toujours Debout

The full video has now emerged for the tarck Toujours Debout, the first single from the much anticipated new
album by Renaud.

 It's hard to describe the anticipation surrounding the return of Renaud, the one-time voice of a generation who fell silent due to his much-publicised battle with alcoholism.

It's fair to say that in a year that looks like it will see more than a few acts return to the stage after a few years off, the return of Renaud is probably a more significant event than any of the other acts turning back the years by picking up their guitars again.

The song's good, Renaud's wit and hunour intact after having endured his hard years,  the rock n roll flavoure reminding us of the musical roots of an artist perhaps more associated with songs like Mistral Gagnant than his more edgy rock material.

The 2016 Renaud is of course older than he is best remembered, but he looks in good form if a little fragile. His voice is a surprise, unsurprisingly worn, but in stronger and in far better shape than anyone might have expected.

His new album is released on April, coming out in a variety of formats, and is available to pre-order now.

Christine and the Queens: It's Only Mystery

A weekend of award ceremonies, with both the Oscars and the César award ceremonies being held over the past few days.

There was no French flavour at the Oscars, no winner like Jean Dujardin or Marion Cottilard, but the César awards cast the spotlight firmly on French cinema.

Mustang and Marguerite each won four awards at the 41st Césars, best film going to the movie Fatima.

The award for Best Original Music went to Mustang, the soundtrack by Dirty Three/Bad Seeds/Grinderman member Warren Ellis. He's composed for a number of films before, most noteably for 2009's The Road.

Highlight of the event to this blog was probably the appearance of Christine and the Queens, performing the track It's Only Mystery. Another of her well-chosen covers, it was a track from the soundtrack of iconic 1980s French movie Subway, the song written by composer Eric Serra.

That movie, directed by Luc Besson, was one of the turning points in French cinema, not only giving Besson an international reputation but also showing that innovation and style in French cinema wasn't something that was consigned to the history books or arthouse nouvelle vague retrospectives.

Her appearance at the cermony coincided with the UK release of her Chaleur Humain album, a collection that swept the boards at the Victoires de la Musique awards in 2015, and picked up another two this year.

It's been a joy to see her get so much positive press in the UK, including a two-page article in the Times along with a cover photo. An article which also included references to other French acts to watch, including VLR favourite Sudden Death of Stars no less.

She's got a sold-out show in London later this month, so I suspect more press might be on the horizon as she takes on the UK market.

I don't think it will be long until one of France's most significant artists in recent yaers is as well known here as she is in France.

Editorial: March 2016

Another month kicks off,  with more French music and related news than ever it seems. When we
 kicked things off here some years ago, I thought that there might be the occasional current French music news to share, and I'd spend a lot of time looking back at gems the anglo audience might have missed over several decades of quality francosphere music.

  But with so much material emerging that merits attention, new acts that deserve  a mention and news about the latest developments from established acts, there's never been so much  to write about.
Maybe our contacts are getting better at letting us know about things, or maybe it reflects that French music has itself become more confident about its place in the global music scene.

However, this being said, apologies for things getting quiet towards the end of February. As the month comes towards its end, it's always tough to decide whether to continue to add posts for that month or to plan ahead for forthcoming weeks.

Careful use of my time is key to making the  blog work, so given a choice between organising and writing a few (hopefully better) articles for the weeks ahead will  always take precedence over shorter pieces written on the day just to keep things ticking over.

Still, at the end of the day I still managed more posts in February this year than I did in the while first year of the blog's existence.

Which of course brings us to one of the most significant dates of the year, with March 16 marking the sixth birthday of the blog. We've covered a lot of ground and listened to some great music since then for sure.

February was a busy month, and March sees no  slackening in what's going on in the world of French music, with significant releases ahead as well as some key French acts playing in the UK.

Christine and the Queens play in London later this month, a sold-out show at Koko following the UK release of her debut album at the end of February.  Selah Sue  and Gaspard Royant are also visitors to our shores this month.

As always, I can be contacted on johnkilbrideAThotmailDOTcom, with the appropriate punctuation where you'd expect it to be. I'm always pleased to hear from record companies, PR companies and promoters, so do get in touch.

The blog is also on Twitter as @viveleroq or you can find me at @karnag

If you're around Facebook, remember to like the French Music Podcast UK page, where you can get regular updates with both fresh and vintage French music.

Thanks as always to the French Music Office in London and to the Institut francais in London for their help and encouragement.

Merci et à bientôt

John K