Saturday, 22 December 2018

Damien Saez: #humanite & à Dieu

The dust has barely settled on the release of Damien Saez's remarkable #humanité album, than a new track emerges ahead of next year's à Dieu collection.

I couldn't help but notice that the day after  #humanité was released, France was consumed by widespread social unrest under the banner of the Gilets Jaunes movement. Coincidence?

Well, perhaps not. While Saez was hardly behind what went on, and people didn't really take to the streets inspired by his words, it is true that Saez taps into the unrest and unease of contemporary society. He articulates a malaise that affects many, but which too may refuse to acknowledge even exists.

It has many facets and names; inequality, exclusion, materialism, consumerism, elitism, along with old fashioned ailments like racism, poverty and unemployment. There is no one overall name for the problem, but it has a wide range of symptoms, and as is always the case, it is those who have the least who are suffering the most.

Saez is aware of the times and the undercurrent of tension that the situation has created. But he's no simple protest singer, there are no slogans or easy solutions in his work - although many of his lyrics would make a decent banner at a demonstration. Instead he looks a wider picture, through a poetic lens, at the catacysm that ranges in scale from international economics of inequality to the personal crisis of précarité.

His Le Manifeste: Lulu album from 2017 articulates his agenda: "Des mots d'amour contre un empire."

As well as pointing the finger at the guilty, he questions our own involvement. Are we passively collaborating with those involved, or through wilful ignorance contributing to our own situation? There are no easy answers, and Saez to his credit makes no attempt to parcel it all up and give us a fake Hollywood happy ending.

The anger that fuelled the Gilets Jaunes is the same anger that informs much of Saez's work.

I've long considered Saez one of the most important French musical artists at work today, and his recent work builds has only confirmed that to these ears.

Next year sees a new album entitled à Dieu, but while some fans drew a conclusion that this suggested the end of his career, tour dates across France at the end of 2019 - including a show at Bercy on December 3 - suggests this is far from the case.

Faced with times like these we need artists like Saez more than ever.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Video: Justice - Heavy Metal

Taking its inspiration from the world of American marching bands, the new video by Justice for their track Heavy Metal is a change from the ultra-violence of their last release Love SOS.

Heavy Metal originally featured on their 2016 Woman album, and a version appeared on this year's Woman Worldwide album that came out in August this year.

Interesting to see the band in an all-American context, as they're the only French representatives this year at the Grammy awards in February. They're in the 'best dance/electronic album' category, alongside Jon Hopkins, Sofi Tucker, SOPHIE and TOKiMONSTA.

I've always thought of Justice as being a rock band, albeit one that operates using a different medium. While their main appeal might be to fans of electronic music, those into more established sounds can find plenty to love in what Justice do. I can imagine Metallica fans getting into Justice, and not just on account of this song title.

France has always been good at producing acts that ignore the established musical genre conventions and create something new instead.

Hopefully Justice will be served at the Grammys, they certainly deserve the recognition. They've continued to create music that's cutting edge but instantly accessible, new but informed by the work of earlier artists.

Justice for all? Without a doubt.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Bars en Trans 2018: Some highlights

Rennes is a hive of activity for French music this weekend, with the Transmusicales festival showcasing some of the finest emerging acts from France and elsewhwhere.

Acts like Jeanne Added. Moodoid, Grand Blanc and Benjamin Clementine are among those who have emerged to mainstream recognition from appearances at the event.

But the city also hosts a more grass-roots event, the Bars en Trans festival that sees dozens of acts playing at bars, clubs and other small venues across the city.

Some of the acts are local, from Rennes and elsewhere in Brittany, others from further afield in France and beyond.

In terms of genre, there's the widest possible cross section, with intreging listings like techno-indus/Rennes and chanson brute primative/Metz rubbing shoulders with rap/Paris, rock/Lille and electro/Saint-Etienne.

There are more acts playing than it's physically possible to get to over a few days, but here are a few of them. I'll feature a few more in the next couple of days.

Camp Claude are fine ambassadors of new French pop. They're bright, sharp and smarter than they might first appear. Hugely enjoyable and they deserve to be the official soundtrack for the French summer.

Taxi Kebab present an intoxicating proposition with their psych-flavoured melange of electronics and guitar, a flavour of heavy north African drones and diorientating sonics. If the Master Musicians of Joujouka grew up listening to Aphex Twin it might sound something like this.

Sweet pop vocals and a backdrop of dark trip hop electronics from UTO, a classy duo from Ivry-sur-Seine.

Agapé produces a sharp and smart electronic informed R & B, flavoured with tropical urban beats and chilled vocals.

Mauvais Œil are recent signings to Disque Enterprise, home of Bagarre, Grand Blanc and Moodoid, all acts that gained a lot of attention from festival performances in Rennes. There's something of a gothic indie rock spirit here, with an arabic psyche flavour. Very impressive.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Johnny Hallyday: One year on

We're exactly one year on since the death Johnny Hallyday, unquestionably the biggest figure in French music since the early 60s. 

He's often described to those unfamiliar with French music as 'The French Elvis' - unquestionably true - but that really only goes part of the way.

While, yes, he was the guy who invented rock 'n' roll (for the French audience anyway) he went on to effectively be the French Beatles, the French Stones, the French Rod Stewart and the French Bruce Springsteen. As Elvis was superceded by subsequent generations of performers, no one quite challenged Johnny the same way and he remained standing despite changing musical fashions.

It's quite incredible to look back on the footage from his Rester Vivant tour - his final solo tour - where he would come on stage by walking through a giant skull, which remained above the stage throughout the show. It's either staggeringly inappropriate or Johnny having a laugh at his own mortality. Quite probably both.

The live album documenting the tour would be the last album he worked on in his lifetime.

The Johnny Hallyday industry has continued in the past year, and he's remained firmly in the eye of the presse people. Johnny gave the French tabloids plenty to work with over the decades from teenage riots to relationship speculation, to often-ill informed rumours about his health in later years.

That's not stopped now, with tales of how his will has apparently driven family members apart. Maybe some of it is true, maybe none of it.

Tributes have been paid by friends and family, in word and in song, and while many have been genuine, others have been accused of attempting to cash in on Johnny's legacy.

Those arguments extended to his final album, which became more of a national French cultural event than any normal record release.

With one year passing, Johnny remains a part of the French landscape and has been somewhat rehabilitated. His status as national treasure is assured, no longer just the idol of elderly uncles and grans but one of the many cultural things that makes France distinct. The electric performances remembered, the hits celebrated. The sub-par material quietly forgotten.

There may be other recordings to emerge, there will be other tribute albums and artists will continues to perform his songs. There may be a stage show, a street named after him or a museum collecting his artefacts.

And the cast of characters will continue to amuse the tabloid press, with little regard for the actual feelings of those who lost a friend, father or partner.

There will be no more tours, no more genuinely new albums, and for his fans life won't be the same.

But while Johnny may have left the building, his presence will certainly remain in France for many years to come.

Festival: Garorock 2019

As details of next summer's music festivals in France start to emerge, the first acts to perform at next summer's Garorock event have been confirmed.

Christine and the Queens, one of the biggest French acts around, are on the bill alongside Macklemore and German electronic producer Paul Kalkbrenner.

Elsewhere, Belgian rapper Roméo Elvis, who has become a significant voice in Francophone hip hop, takes to the stage.

Therapie Taxi, Columbine and Bagarre are among the other acts performing. It's a very strong French presence in the bill, which also includes international acts including Sum 41

It still amazes me that Bagarre are not one of the biggest acts in France right now, but some festival performances in front of the massive crowds they deserve should go some way to putting that right.

Garorock takes place on June 27-30 and details of the rest of the acts who will play the four day event will be made public on December 18.

It's the 23rd edition of Garorock, which last year included performances by Indochine, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Orelsan. Over the years it has progressed from its punk rock roots to feature headline acts included Muse, David Guetta, Justice and Iggy and the Stooges.

It's always had a strong focus on French acts, and it's noticeable how many of those on the bill have played Garorock before, albeit far lower on the listings. Events like this giving a stage to French acts helps them reach an appreciative French audience, it's as simple as that.

Tickets for this year's Garorock go on sale on December 5 at 10am.


Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Halo Maud: Dépression Au-dessus Du Jardin

Like pretty much any fan of French music, I'm a huge fan of Serge Gainsbourg and always enjoy a decent cover version of his songs.

Dépression Au-dessus Du Jardin was written by Gainsbourg for Catherine Deneuve for her 1991 album Souviens-Toi De M'Oublier. Like many of Gainsbourg's works it takes its inspiration from classical sources.

This album was one of several that Gainsbourg created for female artists during the later years of his career, including Isabelle Adjani, Bambou and Vanessa Paradis as well as Jane Birkin.

Birkin herself covered the song on her 1996 Versions Jane album, a collection of Gainsbourg songs that he had been originally performed himself or by other artists. A very different version also featured on her Arabesque live album.

I remember hearing that Birkin regarded it as one of her favourite of Gainsbourg's works.

Gainsbourg never released a studio recording of his own version of the song, but a live version was included on his 1986 live album Gainsbourg live, recorded at the Casino de Paris.

The version by Halo Maud, who says: "I can't remember when exactly I recorded this cover of Serge Gainsbourg, in my room, singing along with Eddy Crampes whose correctness of interpretation (I mean in every songs he's singing on) amazes me. "

Halo Maude released her ebut album Je Suis Une Île in May, one of teh many fine albums released this year.

She has a couple of forthcoming shows in Brazil, before returning to France where she plays dates with Forever Pavot, Terrenoire and Barbara Carlotti.

Editorial: December 2018

Another busy month over, and the holiday season well and truly upon us. Time to celebrate.

Last month saw an incredible number of new releases, and I'll spend some time over the next couple of weeks reviewing a few of them. This has been an absolute vintage year for French music.

I'll also feature a few of my favourites of 2018, albums and videos, to give a flavour of some of the music that has been inspiring this blog over the last 12 months.

Of course, no shortage of events and releases over the next few weeks, kicking off with the Transmusicales festival in Rennes, with the associated Bars en Trans featuring some very interesting developing acts as well.

I'll feature as many of these as I can over the next few days.

If things have seemed a little quiet here over the last few months, it's worth getting over to Facebook where you should Like or Follow the French Music Podcast UK page, where I'm posting links to French music videos - new and old - several times a day.

Previously I might have put a short post on the blog here if I had an interesting video, but recently I've taken to presenting them on the Facebook page instead.

The blog here seems a more appropriate place for longer pieces like reviews or features. The sort of thing that I've been putting up over the past few weeks.

I'll keep the short video pieces for the Facebook page.  If you're wondering about it, we've managed three or four posts every weekday for the last while, so loads of content going on there. Give it a like, it is at French Music Podcast UK

I'm available by email at johnkilbrideAThotmailDOTcom, with a couple of obvious changes in the email address that I'm sure you can guess.

If you're a PR for a French act, label or event, just drop me an email. I look forward to hearing from you. I'm always pleased to get feedback, suggestions and inspiration.

The blog is also on Twitter as @viveleroq, so give us a follow or contact us via there. I'm also on Twitter as @karnag, and usually respond a bit quicker on that address especially when I'm out the office.

Thanks as always to the team at Oui Love Music - soon to be What the France - for all their work introducing French acts to the international audience. John K

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Mylène Farmer - Désobéissance

If there's one artist who defines the difference between French music and more anglocentric tastes it has to be Mylène Farmer.

The success she's had in France is genuinely staggering, with a record-breaking list of number one singles throughout her career, including 1988's Pourvu qu'elles soient douces and N'oublie pas in June. 

Along the way helped revolutionised the video clip, establishing it as more than just a means to sell records. Her new album will be one of 2018's biggest sellers in the country, and her run of shows in Paris next year are eagerly awaited. 

I've heard her described as 'The French Madonna' , but I really don't think Madonna enjoys the same status as Mylène does in France. Mylène however, remains very much an unknown figure in the anglophone world, something that I'm sure her record company would like to change.

Maybe her music confuses an anglophone ear. While she's an artist with a knowledge of philosophy, poetry and provocation, much is this is lost in the language gap, and all that remains is perhaps not  that inspiring to an audience with a more sophisticated ear.  

She's just released a video for the title track of her recent Désobéissance album, which comes out at the end of the week in a special edition that includes a DVD and an unreleased track. 

Monday, 26 November 2018

Brigitte: Debout les femmes

An interesting clip for the song Debout les femmes featuring Brigitte as well as the likes of Pomme, La Grande Sophie, Cléa Vincent, Julie Zenatti and Hollysiz, performing an interpretation of the feminist anthem Debout les femmes.

It has been released as a benefit for the charity La Maison des Femmes, hte song being originally written in the 1970s as an anthem for the feminist movement.

While perhaps a song associated with an earlier phase of feminist politics, it remains relevant with this weekend seeing demonstrations against violence against women across France.

Brigitte commented on their Facebook page: " We are of different origins, different backgrounds, different ages.

"We wanted to raise our voices together, as if there were only one, in chorus, because while we are different we are together to protect our sisters, our friends, our daughters, our mothers."

The tune used for the song is the same as the song, originally titled in German Die Moorsoldaten, known in English as The Peat Bog Soldiers. The song originated in a Nazi concentration camp for socialists and communists in 1933 where, banned from performing political songs, inmates wrote their own.

The song became popular with Germans forced abroad during the war, and was adopted by German soldiers in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. A version of the song in French,  Le Chant Des Marais, is used by the French Foreign Legion as one of their marching songs.

With the #metoo movement raising awareness of the fact that inequality remains a far too common experience for women, it is a performance that links the struggle of today with the history of the movement.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Johnny Hallyday: Pardonne-moi (and a few thoughts about Mon pays c'est l'amour...)

A new video for a song from Johnny Hallyday's final album, Pardonne-moi following the release of  J'en parlerai au diable as a single from Mon pays c'est l'amour.

Strangely there are some parallels with the video for David Hallyday's Ma dernière lettre video, directed by his sister Laura Smet. But I suppose the wolf is just too strong a visual metaphor to resist.

It's always a challenge to make a video from a star who's no longer with us. But Johnny's image was so firmly embedded in the French conscience that it doesn't take much to conjure him up. An eagle, a motorbike, a leather jacket and of course the wolf. I don't think the archive footage or the actor, supposed to be Laeticia Hallyday, are really needed.

But it's a decent late-period Hallyday performance, from an album that has made history in France as the biggest seller this year. Even in a year of particularly strong releases, despite it being a posthumous release, and one that has been at the centre of no small amount of controversy.

The posthumous album is always a difficult proposition. Few would rank the releases that came out under John Lennon's name after he died as anything like his best work - there's usually a pretty good reason tracks were not released after they were recorded. All too often the need for new product, whether demanded by fans or by record companies, results in sub-par compilations that don't do the artist's reputation any favours.

But Mon pays c'est l'amour is a different beast, more an unfinished album rather than one that was assembled from what was found on the shelf. Hallyday was working on the collection during his last months, so artistically it hangs together as well as any of his later albums. Johnny had a hand in creating it, and while it might have been finished without him, it was recorded and considered with the intention of being released as an album.

It doesn't stray from what Hallyday did best, powerful introspective  ballads and rock 'n' roll numbers like the title track, Back in LA or Made in rock 'n' roll, country and a strong blues flavour throughout. It was never going to be Blackstar or even Johnny Cash's American Recordings albums, but for better or worse it was always going to be as pure a distillation of latter-day Hallyday as possible.

Interlude probably didn't need to be there, though. It would have made an interesting orchestral b-side for a seven inch of J'en parlerai au diable but in the context of the album it feels like a bid to fill the running time of the album unnecessarily.

The songs are good and while there might not be an obvious Allumer le feu, the collection stands up well alongside albums like De l'amour, Rester Vivant or L'attanteMade in rock 'n' roll would certainly have been a great song in a live setting and had they had the opportunity, other songs would have no doubt taken their place in the Hallyday fans' hall of fame.

Even the harshest critic of Johnny would acknowlege his voice as one of the best, and despite the ravages of terminal illness his voice remains as powerful and distinctive on this album as it ever was.

The album has set records for sales in France. There's a new box set edition being released, and no doubt other singles will emerge. Elsewhere, tribute albums are planned from other aritsts, older material has been repackaged and released and the Hallyday industry has become a major commercial proposition.

There's talk of more unreleased material being released as albums, although his record company has been quick to play this down. I'm sure I heard, for example, around the time of l'attente there were sessions for English language versions of some of the songs. There's bound to be some material on archive shelves that deserves a listen and some of it will inevitably surface in the years to come.

But Mon pays c'est l'amour is maybe more a post-script to his discography than a regular posthumous release. It may not be his best work, but it stands up well alongside his recent studio albums.

Johnny may have left us, on a final motorcycle ride into the sunset, but his final despatch shows an artist who made the most of his talent right to the very end.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Chris(tine and the Queens): Pictures from London show

Just some pictures from the Chris(tine and the Queens) gig at the Eventim Apollo in London last night.

Martin Smith took the pictures and gave us permission to use them. Thanks!

Les Inrocks Festival: Miossec, Terrenoire, Myth Syzer and Krisy

Today sees the start of the Les Inrocks Festival in Paris, an event run in conjunction with France's most switched-on cultural magazine.

While music is front and centre of the four-day event, there are discussions, meetings, food and film screenings all being held at the Gaîté Lyrique.

Tonight sees a performance by Miossec, whose album Les rescapés was released in September.

Also playing tonight are Manchester's W H Lung and Terrenoire, who have just released their debut EP.

Tomorrow has John Grant, who released his Love is magic album earlier this year, along with Queen Zee from Liverpool, Touts from Derry and Fontaines D.C.  from Dublin.

On Friday it's the event hosts three developing French acts, featuring Myth Syzer whose Bisous debut was released in April. Also on the bill are Lolo Zouaï and Johan Papaconstantino.

The final night features a more hip hop and rap orientated bill, with Loud, Krisy, Octavian and Duckwrth.

Add to these some showcase sets by Zed Yun Pavarotti, Mauvais Oeil and Oh Mu.

As you might expect from Les Inrocks, it's a well curated line-up. A mix of  developing acts and more widely-known cult acts, French and international and cross-genres, but all with the kind of artistic credibility that attracted the attention of from France's most respected music mag and multimedia platform.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Damien Saez: Two new albums

The news that there are two new albums in the pipeline from Damien Saez is the kind of news that gets this blog excited.

Saez never does things by half,  from his live shows that run for over three hours a night to a  back catalogue that features several triple albums including his most recent, last years Le Manifeste - Lulu.

The new albums go by the names L'humanité and A dieu, Saez releasing the inormation on social media channels. There's little other information, other than an image that could be the cover of L'humanité, a characteristic take on comsumer society.

Of course, there's plenty in this information to inspire questions. Is he referring to the newspaper in the title of the first album? Is the second really a goodbye?

Meanwhile, a new single P'tite Pute has emerged, going some way to suggest the possible musical direction of the new collection. It doesn't sound like it will be a selection of piano-centred chansons,

Saez is the kind of artist that makes reinforces my belief in French music as worthwhile. If at times it can be a thankless task persuading the anglophone listener that French music deserves a listen on its merit, a blast of Saez can be enough to make it worthwhile.

Articulate, intelligent and uncompromising, he's the kind of artist others can only aspire to. He's as poetic as he is political. It's safe to say Le Manifeste - Lulu has been getting played almost constantly here since its release.

Hopefully there will be more live dates announced before too long. I've not had the chance to see Saez live, but there are some superb full concerts from his most recent tour on YouTube. Well worth tracking these down and watching them in full.

L'humanité is released on November 30, A dieu follows in February.


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

David Hallyday: Ma dernière lettre

A new video by David Hallyday for Ma dernière lettre, a song that pays tribute to his father.

Johnny Hallyday died just under a year ago after a long illness. A final album by Johnny, recorded in the months before his death, was released just weeks ago and has already sold over a million copies in France.

David Hallyday unveiled the song at the NRJ Music awards in Cannes at the weekend, an event that was broadcast on TF1.

The video was directed by David Hallyday's sister, Laura Smet. The wolf with blue eyes might just be a metaphor for old Johnny himself.

According to the celebrity press, there's been a lot of bad blood between Hallyday's older children and his widow, mixed opinions among his family, friends ad colleagues over his new album and how best his legacy can be remembered.

How much of this is true or not is uncertain. Johnny was the subject of much overheated speculation from the francophone tabloids when he was alive, throughout his long career, and that hasn't stopped since his passing.

But I reckon the single and video is something that Johnny himself would probably approve of.

David Hallyday's new album, J 'ai quelque chose à vous dire is released on December 7.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Marking the Bataclan anniversary.

It's worth marking the anniversary of the atrocity at the Bataclan in Paris.

It may be only the third anniversary, not particularly a significant one by those who measure years in blocks of five, ten or 25. Nor is it particularly a recent event, not the year's anniversary or an event marking the re-opening of the venue.

And there have been other atrocities since. But this was an atrocity that targeted us.

Most of us were not there that night, but anyone who enjoys seeing a band was a target. Anyone who finds music the life-affirming thing that it is, anyone who dances, is passionate about music or who cares about it deeply were assessed by lunatics who found them unworthy of life.

Ninety people died at the Bataclan, 130 in total were killed across the city that night. An event has been held in Paris to commemorate them, but the real commemoration comes without fanfare or media coverage, without the need for occasion involving the great and the good. The commemoration comes every time someone enjoys a gig, a café, bar or restaurant in Paris. Because every single time this happens, it is a reminder that those who tried to destroy us ultimately failed.

Society did not fall to its knees. It rose to its feet against the intolerance that bred such hatred. France - and beyond - was united in the face of those who tried to divide us.

And they were defeated.

The Bataclan re-opened, and people go to gigs there. The cafés and restaurants of Paris are open and are still the lifeblood of the city. The stadium continues to host sporting celebrations.

History tells us that there will be atrocities to come, and while the atrocity at the Bataclan was one of the darkest moments in recent years in Paris, the city of lights remains as defiant and as bright as ever.

NRJ Music Awards 2018

This weekend saw France's pop stars taking their place on the award-winners podium alongside some of the biggest international names for the NRJ Music Awards.

It's an intentionally popular event, covering the commercial end of the music spectrum with French music represented alongside some of the biggest international acts.

It was the 20th edition of the ceremony, and it was broadcast on TF1 from the Palais des festivals in Cannes.

There's a satisfaction on seeing some of France's most popular artists rewarded for their work in the context of international acts. Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Calvin Harris might be big across the world, but here theyir nominations are on an equal standing to those for Hyphen Hyphen, Feder and Zazi.

The show included live performances from amongst others Christine and the Queens, Jain, David Guetta, Jenifer, Orelsan, Maitre Gims as well as Muse and Dua Lipa.

(NB: ensure you've got adblocker off so that the videos will load!)

Christine and the Queens didn't pick up an award, neither did OrelSan, but that didn't stop two of France's biggest acts putting on memorable performances.

Possibly the most anticipated live appearance was the debut performance by David Hallyday of his song Ma derniere lettre, his tribute song to his father.

The French group/duo of the year award went to Bigflo and Oli, who were up against Maitre Gims and Vianney, Orelsan and Stromae, Vitaa and Claudio Capéo, and Naestro, Maitre Gims, Dadju, Vitaa and Slimane.

The breakthrough Francophone act award went to Dadju, who was nominated alongside Eddy de Pretto, Hoshi, Marwa Loud, Vegedream and Aya Nakamura.

DJ Snake won the DJ of the year trophy, against competition from Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Feder and Ofenbach.

The Francophone male artist of the year was Soprano, who was up against Maitre Gims, OrelSan, Slimane, Kendji Girac and Amir.

The Francophone female artist of the year was Jain, who beat Christine and the Queens, Zazi, Jenifer, Louane and Vitaa.

The French song of the year was one of the most prestigious awards, which was picked up by Kendji Girac for Pour Oublier. Others nominated were Dadju, Eddy de Pretto, Maitre Gims and Vianney, Vitaa and Claudio Capéo and Aya Nakamuro.

The video of the year award went to Bigflo and Oli for the song Demain, which they performed at the event. Others that made the shortlist were Ariane Grande, Drake, Maroon 5, Jain and Orelsan.

Elsewhere, international awards went to Camila Cabello (international breakthrough act), Ed Sheeran (International male artist) Ariana Grande (International female artist) and Imagine Dragons (International group/duo) and to Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B (International song of the year).

There were also honorary awards to Shawn Mendes and Muse, and a 'most streamed' award for Dua Lipa.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Nolwenn Leroy's Folk: Versions Originales

With the release last week of an album of covers by Nolwenn Leroy focusing on the work of French singer-songwriters of the 1970s, I thought it was worth taking a look and a listen to some of the original versions of the songs she's re-made for the 21st century audience.

Much as I like Nolwenn, and appreciate her new versions of the songs, the originals of these songs have their own charm.  Her album inspires a dive into some of the forgotten rivers of French music, where cheesy album covers and Greatest Hits compilations congregate, along with artists who haven't had much of a media profile for years or who are written off artistically as well past their peak. But there are some gems that are worth investigation.

If you want to explore further, it won't take much expense. You'll find vinyl or CDs by many of the acts she's covered in the cheap section of pretty much any record shop in France.

Je ne peux plus dire je t'aime originally appeared on Jacques Higelin's 1979 Caviar pour les autres... album. Higelin released two albums simultaneously, Champagne pour tout le monde now combined with its partner as a double album. A later version that saw Higelin duet with actor Isabelle Adjani was probably the definitive Higelin version of the song.

So far away from LA
was a hit for Nicolas Peyrac in 1975 and helped establish his career. It featured on his debut album D'où venez-vous ? Peyrac continues to perform and release new music, and is also a successful author.

Diabolo menthe was written by Yves Simon for the soundtrack of the film of the same name by director Diane Kurys. According to legend, the song was written in the space of two hours before a concert. The film, set in the early 60s, tells the story of two young girls growing up in Paris during that time. The song was also recently covered by La Grande Sophie.

is obviously a cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, but the French version was adapted by Graeme Allwright. Allwright, a singer songwriter with a long career, covered and adapted many of Cohen's songs. It initially appeared on his 1968 Le Jour De Clarté album, along with an adaptation of Cohen's Stranger Song.

Allwright's French version was covered by Francoise Hardy in 1968 on her Comment Te Dire Adieu album. The song was also covered Alain Bashung, appearing on his final album Bleu pétrole in 2008, the year before Bashung's death.

Virages was a hit for Yves Duteil in 1972. His first single, it would feature on his 1974 debut album L'Écritoire. Duteil would go on to write the song Prendre un Enfant, a song that has been widely covered in different languages by a number of artists.

Hollywood was originally by David McNeil and appeared on his 1974 album L'Assassinat. McNeil, the son of painter Marc Chagall, has had a long musical career from his 1972 self-titled debut to his 2014 album Un lézard en septembre and his songs have been performed by artists including Yves Montand, Jacques Dutronc and Renaud.

Petite fille de rêve was a 1974 single by Jean-michel Caradec. It featured on the album of the same name, following his Mords la vie debut the previous year.  One of his best known songs, Ma Bretagne quand elle pleut was covered by Nolwenn Leroy on her 2010 Bretonne album. Caradec  died aged 34 in a car accident in 1981.

Je t'aimais, je t'aime, je t'aimerai was a single in 1994, from Francis Cabrel's Samedi soir sur la Terre. It's one of his best known songs, with previous covers by France Gall amongs others. It's a spectacularly beautiful song. Cabrel recorded an album of Dylan covers in 2012. If Dylan covered this song in English, it would be regarded as a masterpiece.

On est comme on est is the title track of the 1981 debut album by Renaud Detressan. He went on to release three solo albums, before forming the band Soldat Louis in 1988. The band took traditional Breton and celtic music and combined it with rock, with considerable commercial success. From their 1988 Première Bordée album to their 2017 Quelques nouvelles du front, they have remained one of the most prominent names in contemporary Breton music.

la rua madureira came from Nino Ferrer's 1969 album Agata, his third album. Ferrer had been active since 1959 and already enjoyed considerable success in France and Italy. A version of this song by Cali appeared on a tribute album to Ferrer - On dirait Nino - that was released in 2005. Ferrer died in 1998, five years after the release of his final album.

Marions les roses features on the second album by the band Malicorne, and came out in 1975. Malicorne were a folk act who fitten in well with the more pastoral tendancies of then-contemporary progressive rock. Manstay of the band Gabriel Yacoub had previously played with Alan Stivell on his key Chemins de terre and À l'Olympia albums anb.d founded the band with his partner Marie Yacoub. The band enjoyed considerable success in the 70s, and Malicorne 2 sold over 100,000 copies.

Jolie Louise was originally by Daniel Lanois from his 1989 album Acadie. Lanois was by then well-known as a producer, having worked with U2 and Brian Eno, and having played a considerable role in re-inventing the music career of Bob Dylan through his work on his Oh Mercy album. Lanois' debut solo album saw him explore the cajun folk sounds of  French America and did much to revive an international interest in this style of music.

Sacré Géranium by Dick Annegarn is unique in the collection, in that Nolwenn duets with the original artist. The song is the title track from Annegarn's 1974 debut album, although the album technically is just titled 'Dick Annegarn'. Annegarn has continued to record and perform, his most recent release being 2018's 12 villes, 12 chansons.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Editorial: November 2018

Another busy month for French music, with some of this year's big releases especially the new album by Johnny Hallyday setting records for album sales in France.

Whatever your opinion of Johnny and whatever your views on the album, it's the kind of event that puts French music on the front pages of the national news and encourages the kind of sales that the industry hasn't seen in a long time. But above all, it's a reminder of the importance of music, in encouraging participation and community, discussion and debate. While unquestionably a lucrative event for the music industry, it's been an emotional time for all those for whom Johnny was a part of their lives.

It was also a month where France said farewell to another legend, if anything a bigger figure than Johnny. The final curtain came down for Charles Aznavour, an artist who had for decades been a standard bearer for French music, an interntional ambassador for chanson the world over. His passing genuinely marks the end of an era.

November is traditionally a month where we remember those who have left us, whether commemorations of wars past, or ceremonies for All Saints or other souls, and this month sees a memorial for Alain Bashung, with a posthumous collection released this month. His version of Dominique A's Immortels suggests it will be more than just a collection of sub-par outtakes, hopefully an appropriate footnote to the Bashung's legacy.

Among artists who are very much with us, there are other significant releases this month, with a new album by Nolwenn Leroy at the beginning of the month, and a new album from Jean-Michel Jarre later in the month. Both worth looking forward to.

If things have seemed a little quiet on the blog over the last couiple of months, it's worth getting over to Facebook where you should Like or Follow the French Music Podcast UK page, where I'm posting links to French music videos - new and old - several times a day.

Previously I might have put a short post on the blog here if I had an interesting video, but recently I've taken to presenting them on the Facebook page instead. I'll maybe use the blog here for longer pieces instead, such as reviews and the like, and keep shorter pieces on the Facebook page. I'll see how it goes.

There will be a few reviews going up here in the next few days, so no shortage of material. It just gives us another platform to get across material we might otherwise miss.

I'm available by email at johnkilbrideAThotmailDOTcom, with a couple of obvious changes in the email address that I'm sure you can guess.

If you're a PR for a French act, label or event, just drop me an email. I look forward to hearing from you. I'm always pleased to get feedback, suggestions and inspiration.

The blog is also on Twitter as @viveleroq, so give us a follow or contact us via there. I'm also on Twitter as @karnag, and usually respond a bit quicker on that address especially when I'm out the office.

 Thanks as always to the team at Oui Love Music for all their work introducing French acts to the international audience. John K

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Taratata100% Live au Zénith

Taratata is probvably France's leading TV musiuc show, but last week's edition was a little bit special.

The 528th (!) edition of the show was a live special, briadcast from the Zénith in Paris, with an absolutely immense line up of French musical talent on display.

Some of the names involved? Angele, Her, Shaka Ponk, Charlie Winston, LP, Pascal Obispo, Coeur de Pirate, Amandine Bourgeoise, Jenifer and Marc Lavoine. A wide range of styles and generations, with some well-chosen songs performed.

Musical tributes were paid to Jacques Brel and Charles Aznavour, and artists performed exclusive covers and duets.

Jenifer tackled Radiohead's Creep with Slimane.

Add to that Jane Birkin performing with Eddy De Pretto, with a song written by Serge Gainsbourg for Isabelle Adjani.

Jeanne Added performed with Zazie, playing the title track from Zazie's Rodeo along with a version of Nothing Compares to you, the Prince song made famous by Sinead O'Connor.

Cats on Trees performed Nicolas Peyrac's So Far Away from LA with Nolwenn Leroy, a song that appears on her forthcoming Folk album.

Loved this performance by Hyphen Hyphen with Catherine Ringer of a Les Rita Mitsouko number. Ringer was, of course, the singer with that legendary 80s duo. The song originally featured on their 1988 Marc and Robert album.

I reckon its about time the back catalogue of Les Rita was plundered by some present-day artists for one of those 'tribute' collections that have been filling the racks in Franch records shops over recent years, there's a wealth of great material there.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Alpha Blondy: TV5 Monde Acoustic session

Who doesn't love a bit of French reggae?

Great to see a session at the weekend on TV5Monde's Acoustic show by Alpha Blondy, one of the biggest names in the genre.

Blondy, originally from the Ivory Coast, has been one of the biggest reggae stars in France since the early 80s. His new album Human Race is classic reggae with a modern edge.

It's an interesting session, with the focus on his recently released Human Race album. Of particular note is his performance of Serge Gainsbourg's Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais that appears on the album as well as in this session.

While Gainsbourg was a big fan of reggae, with two of his 70s albums landmarks of the genre, the original version of this song pre-dates his Jamaican period. Nice to hear it getting a sympathetic cover. If you're a fan of Gainsbourg, you'd be well advised to investigate it.

Other songs in he performance are Human Race, Life, Les Paiens as well as two brief interview segments.

Vanessa Paradis: Ces mots simples

A new video by Vanessa Paradis for the track Ces mots simples, the first cut to emerge from her forthcoming new album.

While the song first emerged in September, the accompanying video came out just a couple of days ago.

The song was written by her husband Samuel Benchetrit, the video directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

It's a charming and low key song with a quite tasteful and minimal video by Mondino, an artist who has worked with some of the biggest names in music since the 80s, and most recently created the cover of the new Mylene Farmer album.

The new album by Vanessa Paradis sees her working with author and musician Fabio Viscogliosi, as well as Adrien Gallo from BB Brunes.

Her album Les Sources is due to be released on November 16 and is available to pre-order on digital platforms.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The Limiñanas - Russian Roulette

A video for  the new single Russian Roulette by The Limiñanas, one of France's finest purveyors of garage rock.

The Limiñanas: I've Got Trouble in Mind 2
The track comes from their forthcoming new album I've Got Trouble in Mind vol.2 and the video looks like its been just a little bit influenced by the title sequences of a James Bond film.

The album collects some of the bands rare material - singles and compilation tracks - from 2015-2018, following their first Trouble in Mind collection that documented some of their rare material from 2009-2014.

It's a cover of a song by The Lords of the New Church, originally a track on their 1982 self-titled debut album.

The Lords of the New Church were a hugely popular cult act in the 80s whose members were already established figures from the punk scene, vocalist Stiv Bators was in the Dead Boys, Brian James was in the Damned and other members had been in Sham 69 and the Barracudas. They were one of the first bands to adopt a goth style, and released three albums before they split in 1989.

They probably should have been massive, a quick watch of any archive footage of them shows just how much Guns 'n' Roses 'borrowed' from them.

Stiv Bators - who would have been 69 today - died in 1990 as a result of being hit by a taxi in Paris. His ashes were scattered on Jim Morrison's grave in Pere Lachaise cemetery.

It's not the first time a Lords of the New Church song has been covered by a significant French act, with a version of their song Dance With Me recorded by Nouvelle Vague.

The Limiñanas have dates in Germany and France next month and in December, while I've Got Trouble in Mind vol.2 is released on November 16.

Agar Agar: Live in London

If you're in the London area tonight, there's a great chance to see one of France's most interesting acts, with Agar Agar playing at the Village Underground.

They released their debut album The Dog and the Future at the end of September, delivering on the promise held in their earlier releases. The duo's brand of electro pop is as stylish as it is sharp, experimental and bold, but with a subversive wit about it.

Clara Cappagli and Armand Bultheel's background might be art school, but they're no strangers to making genuinely likeable music.

It doesn't seem all that long ago Christine and the Queens were playing venues this kind of size in the UK, and Agar Agar certainly deserve the kind of success that Christines' enjoyed in the last couple of years.

If you get the chance to see Agar Agar, make the most of seeing them in an intimate venue. It won't be long before they're playing much bigger places.

Following their London show Agar Agar are back in France for an extensive diary of live dates around the country, with shows scheduled in all the corners of the hexagon until February.

They play at the Olympia in Paris on December 12.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Her: Neighbourhood

A new video emerges from Her, coinciding with the news that the band will not be continuing.

The band, formed in 2015 by Victor Solf and Simon Carpentier, had continued after the death of Carpentier, Solf saying that he had promised to finish their debut album and to continue with the band as long as possible.

He confirmed to an audience in Rennes, their home town, that he had done all he could, and later posted a message confirming that the act woud continue until the end of their tour in February next year, and he would then close this chapter of his live and open a new one.

Victor Solf plans a solo career, saying it is necessary to move forward in his life and to find his freedom again, both artistic and personal.

No doubt it was a hard decision, but it is a completely understandable one.

The decision brings to a close one of France's most promising new acts in recent years. The decision to carry on following the death of a founder member was an appropriate tribute, and the decision to finally bring the curtain down seems right.

With the legacy of Her behind him as a solo artist, Victor Solf can develop his career in his own way.

I look forward to the next chapter.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Jain: Oh Man

A new single from Jain, with Oh Man released as the second single from her Souldier album.

Souldier was released in August, and it showed a confident evolution from her Zanaka debut. That album was a massive success in France and beyond, the first single from her second album - Alright - giving her a massive summer hit in France.

The new single is a bright piece of electro pop with an ethnic feel, instantly memorable and sure to make an impact. I reckon it will continue to raise her profile far beyond France, she certainly deserves to be an international star. She's certainly got the talent, the style and the songs.

Jain continues her bid to conquer the world with live dates across North America this month, and shows in London and Manchester in November. She's back in France for a large-scale tour of the country's arenas from March until June next year, with two shows at the Zénith in Paris on March 20 and 21.

Angèle feat. Roméo Elvis: Tout Oublier

Another memorable video and song from Angèle, coinciding with the release of her debut album Brol earlier this month.

Angèle has emerged as an interesting voice in French rap, bringing some humour and a unique style. You get the feeling she doesnt take herself too seriously and is enjoying what she does.

Her songs are great, and there's a playful wit at work here that suggests she's smart operator.

Anglophone critics might compare her to Lily Allen, but tshe's probably got more in common with fellow Belgian Stromae.

She plays a showcase in-store performance at FNAC in Paris Les Halles on October 11, and has live shows across France and Belgium scheduled until February.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Festi'Val de Marne

I always enjoy drawing attention to the music festivals that are held in France, and while the overwhelming majority take place over the summer, with something worthwhile on pretty much every weekend, it's good to see things don't dry up completely as Autumn takes hold.

This year's Festi'Val de Marne runs from today until October 20, and sees an impressive number of acts performing across 24 town in the  department in the Île-de-France.

Acts performing include Grand Corps Malade, Miossec and the mighty Feu! Chatterton. Elsewhere, Les Néhgresses Vertes, Pomme and Aquaserge are on the bill, as are Cats on Trees and Hollydays. There's a wide range of styles on display, with local communities getting the chance to experience some well-chosen developiong and estabished acts.

Other events include special shows for youngsters, including one intriguingly entitled Gainsbourg for kids.

With the venues of the Val de Marne easily accessible from Paris, it's no surprise that the festival has had a long history. With the theme 'Where the music embraces the words', this year marks the 32nd time the event's been held.

Hollydays: On a déjà (du SON dans mon SALON SESSION)

A great little acoustic session by Hollydays, playing in an apartment for du SON dans mon SALON.

The duo of Elise Preys and Sébastien Delage have been working together since 2012, and released their Les Animaux EP in 2014, another Les Insatisfaits the following year,

A five-track EP of covers came out last year, where they take on songs originally by MC Solaar, Niagra, Jacques Dutronc, La Petite Sirene and Jean-Pierre Mader. This might give some indication of where they sit artistically - somewhere in the middle between classic French pop and more contemporary sounds.

Their most recent EP release is L'Odeur Des Joints, a four-track affair which came out in February, featuring Je bois, the title track, On a déjà, and the song Léo.

On a déjà,  Léo and  L'Odeur Des Joints all feature on their forthcoming 13 track debut album, Hollywood Bizarre, due to be released on November 2.

Pépite: Feu Rouge

If this blog's been a little heavy with the presence of major artists and big budget releases of late,  it's always worth returning our focus to something perhaps a bit more bite sized.

Feu Rouge by Pépite is something quite lovely, and the video is equally charming. The band describe it as "Closing titles...for the beginning of a debut album." It's the kind of dreamy track that ticks all the right boxes for chilled French pop, effortlessly stylish but not taking itself too seriously.

There's something of a humorous wink towards the 1976 Claude Lelouch short film C'était un rendez-vous in the clip of course. Although there's perhaps a more relaxed feel to it.

Feu Rouge features vocals by Flora Fischbach, whose À ta merci was one of this blog's favourite releases in recent years.

Pépite's Les Bateaux EP was released in 2016, their  Renaissance EP in 2017. We're certainly ready to hear more by them.

Pépite play La Cigale in Paris on October 9.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Alain Bashung: Immortels

A previously unrelease Alain Bashung track has emerged, Immortels was written by Dominique A and it comes ahead of a posthumous album later this year.

The posthumous album can be an artistically risky affair. Fans of an artist will always appreciate the chance to hear 'new' work, but as often as not the work that was left on a shelf was left there for a very good reason.

Maybe it's because the standard of Bashung's work was so high that this was left aside. Whatever the reason, it's magnificent.

In 2011 a  cover of Serge Gainsbourg's L'homme à tête de chou album was released, the only prior posthumous collection of unreleased Bashung material. It was originally intended as the soundtrack for a ballet, and recorded by Bashung for a performance in 2009.

The songs on the new collection were recorded around the time of his 2008 Bleu pétrole album and were mostly in a guitar and voice only form. They were worked on by producer Édith Fambuena, who had previously collaborated with Bashung, most noteably on his  1998 album Fantaisie militaire. She workedd with Bashung's widow, singer and actress Chloé Mons, to create sympathetic arrangements for the original recordings.

2019 marks the tenth anniversary of Bashung's death and the new collection of 11 unreleased recordings seems an appropriate way to mark the occasion.

En amont is released on November 23.

Charles Aznavour RIP

As I write the editorial page for this month, I see from a friend that Charles Aznavour has died at the age of 94. Another great of French music leaves the stage.

Aznavour's career covered seven decades, and as an artist he represented for many a link between the golden age of French chanson and the 21st century. 

There had been some concern for his health in reecnt months after a broken arm sustained in a fall meant cancelled concerts, but on Friday an appearance on France 5's TV's C à Vous showed him in seemingly fine form, as indefatiguable as ever and detailing planned live shows.

Aznavour was a French artist who was known internationally, as respected in America as he was in Armenia, the country his parents came from.

Already the obituaries in the UK and the USA are referring to him, as the French Sinatra. It's the usual shorthand reserved for foreign artists, a quick comparison with an artist the audience will be more familar with.

But Aznavour was much more than Sinatra, writing for Piaf before launching his own career as a singer himself, writing his own material in a business at the time when performer and writer were usually seperate, and performing in a variety of languages for audiences in different countries.  He was also a significant film star in France and beyond.

Meanwhile, he was involved in politics and humanitarian issues, helping Armenia in the wake of a devastating earthquake in the 80s, and protestinng against the right wing in France.

As a performer he remained a captivating presence, taking to the stage long after many of his contemporaries had either died or retired. He loved what he did, and while there was certainly a nostalgia for another era in his shows in recent decades, he carried it off with panache and style.

I don't know if any other artist could compare, or achieve what he managed to do. He leaves an extraordinary legacy.

Editorial: October 2018

As expected, September did indeed turn out to be quite a month for releases.

It's the season of La rentrée, which amongst other things marks a huge number of books being published, and certainly the French music scene has been every bit as busy with some major new products by some of France's biggest artists.

Christine and the Queens, Mylène Farmer and Jean-Michel Jarre  all released either new collections of significant compilations,  and favourites from this blog including Flavien Berger and Grand Blanc released their second albums.

There's been much to enjoy, and I'm pleased to have reviewed a few of these albums so far. I'll have a few more reviews in the next few days and weeks as I catch up with listening to the torrent of new material and doing it justice. 

I'm available by email at johnkilbrideAThotmailDOTcom, with a couple of obvious changes in the email address that I'm sure you can guess. If you're a PR for a French act, label or event, just drop me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

I'm always pleased to get feedback, suggestions and inspiration. The blog is also on Twitter as @viveleroq, so give us a follow or contact us via there. I'm also on Twitter as @karnag, and usually respond a bit quicker on that address especially when I'm out the office.

If you're on Facebook, be sure to Like or Follow the French Music Podcast UK page, where I'm posting links to French music videos - new and old - several times a day. It's well worth getting in your social media feed.

Thanks as always to the team at Oui Love Music for all their work introducing French acts to the international audience.

 John K

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Les Rencontres Trans Musicales #Trans2018

With the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder, there's no denying winter is on its way. And with the change of the season we're looking ahead to the big event in December - Les Rencontres Trans Musicales in Rennes.

2018 marks the 40th edition of the festival that acts as a major showcase for some of the best developing artists. There is always a well-curated selection of acts from around the world, but there's always a solid presence of French artists. For many, an appearance at the Trans Musicales is the first major step in a career.

Recent years have seen performances by Benjamin Clementine, Jeanne Added, Stromae and Grand Blanc.

Fourteen names were released earlier this month, but another major tranche of artists have been added to the bill.

Among the French acts this year are rapper Disiz, electro act Dombrance, Ouai Stéphane, RexRegis, The Psychotic Monks, The YD and Venice Club.

From Canada there are francophone artists Hubert Lenoir and  Les Louanges and further afield come Franco-Chilean duo Nova Materia.

Local acts from Rennes and elsewhere in Brittany include Initials Bouvier Bernois, Fleuves.

Already announced are Aloïse Sauvage, Praa, Ryder The Eagle and  La Fraicheur.

I'll feature some of these acts in more detail in coming weeks. There are likely to be some memorable live sets this year.

This year's poster was designed by US artist Brendan Monroe. It's got to be one of the best so far.

The festival runs from December 5 to Sunday December 9.

Review: Jean-Michel Jarre - Planet Jarre

Do we need another Jean-Michel Jarre compilation?  The new multiple-disc selection Planet Jarre looks back on his 50 year music career, with something new, something old and a few rarities as well.

The collection is assembled in four themed sections: Soundscapes, Themes, Sequences and Explorations and Early Works, and Jarre's done a little bit of work remixing and tweaking the tracks for 21st century ears.

Soundscapes collects his more ambient works, with the first part of Oxygene opening the set. It showcases Jarre's breakthrough works, but with the focus on the less commercial tracks and works well.

There's a flavour of the more experimental edge of 70s prog rock running through this work. While he's credited as a major commercial artist, this selection - which covers material up to his 2016 Heart of Noise album - gives us the opportunity to re-assess his work in the context of a more artistic framework.

The second selection - Themes - contains some of his best-known work, with Oxygene 4 and Equinoxe 5 as well as Magnetic Fields 2 and laser harp number Rendez-Vous 2. You'll probably recognise them all, if there's a 'greatest hits' playlist in this collection, this is it.

 I'm not so keen on the tracks Zoolookologie and Bells, and while they've got their place in his body of work, to these ears the 80s synths have dated worse than much of his early work.

Sequences shows his work in a far more contemporary style of electronics. The new track Coachella Opening takes us right up to 2018, and others in this section such as Equinoxe 7 and 1982's Arpeggiator show that Jarre is no stranger to operating in the more dance oriented electronic area. I've always thought that given the right set, Jarre could blow the roof off an Ibiza mega club. Stardust, featuring Armen Van Buuren makes this case strongly.

The final selection Explorations and Early Works gathers some of his lesser known material, including early singles and pre-Oxygene soundtrack works. His debut single La Cage and Erosmachine as well as Hypnose and 1968's Happiness is a sad song all deserve to be on display again, as does the demo excerpt from his legendary Music for Supermarkets single-copy album.

Some may have preferred other rare material to appear, some of the tracks here featured on 2011's Essentials and Rarities collection, but that collection is itself now difficult to locate. This presents them in the way they deserve, held up alongside his most popular and artistically acclaimed work.
There's maybe yet a place for his early Deserted Palace album, early pseudonym singles and for the Dustbins to get their moment in the sun.

Throughout his career Jarre has done more than most to make electronic music popular and accessible, without it being artistically weak. From copies of Oxygene given away free with newspapers to his massive outdoor shows, he's always reached out to those who might give him a listen. Most have come away impressed. There's a generation who are now discovering his work through the current electronic artists, and this collection shows Jarre has been leading from the front for decades, and shows little sign of resting on past glories.

To answer the question in the first paragraph: Do we need another Jean-Michek Jarre compilation? Yes, actually we probably do.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Review: Grand Blanc - Image au mur

I've said before that Grand Blanc are one of the acts I point to when I'm asked if French music actually does has anything to offer.

Their debut album, 2016's Mémoires vives was an assured collection of electro-flavoured rock, and even regular listening since doesn't diminish its impact. Tracks like Montparnasse are as jaw-dropping now as they were when I first heard them.

Wisely they didn't rush to make their debut, coming out as it did two years after their first EP. The time they spent perfecting their craft paid off, with both a memorable first album and a reputation as an impressive live act.

Image au mur doesn't feel like a second album by a band on an independent label. But Grand Blanc are more than a regular band, and Disques Enterprise - home of Fishbach, Bagarre and Moodoïd and other French language acts - punches far above its weight.

There's a lot going on in Image au mur, again you get the feeling they've thought things through, worked at it and allowed things to develop. There are moments of epic rock, like in Ailleurs, but they avoid it being empty gesture. There are thoughtful passages, like the REM flavoured Télévision, but it never gets too introspective.

The production of Image au mur provides an elegant stage for the voices of Benoît David and Camille Delvecchio. In the best tradition of Depeche Mode and New Order, for all their use of technology and electronics, there is a humanity at the core of Grand Blanc that lifts them.

Belleville perhaps continues a tendancy for songs named after quartiers of Paris, a punchy and immediately likeable song with a stylish and sharp Paris punk flavour. Los Angeles a serious slice of electro pop and Rêve BB Rêve a nod perhaps to Depeche Mode and to New York electro-punk pioneers Suicide. Ailleurs might start with a 60s French pop feel, but soon moves into a widescreen epic place, before returning to more Cocteau Twins dreamscape.

Image au mur comes out not long after Grand Blanc supported French rock veterans Indochine at dates in arenas around France and beyond. Listening to the album, you can imagine the same respect and longevity ahead for Grand Blanc.

Mylène Farmer: Live dates in 2019

With the new album by Mylène Farmer on the immediate horizon, radio station Europe 1 say that she will be playing a series of a series of live concerts in 2019.

Europe 1 say that Mylène Farmer will play ten shows at the Paris La Défense arena in Nanterre on the west of Paris.

The Paris La Défense arena is a stadium that can hold 40,000 people when its being used for live concerts.  The 360 million euro building - the biggest concert hall in Europe - has been open since 2017 and regularly hosts sports events and is home to rugby club Racing 92.

The Rolling Stones were the first artists to play there, performing there for three nights in October 2017. Since then, Roger Waters  has played there, with Booba scheduled for next month.

There has been no official confirmation of the shows so far, nor details of the dates or when tickets might be available.

Mylène's last tour was in 2013, with the Timeless tour supporting her 2012 Monkey Me album. That tour saw her perform 39 shows in five countries, France, Switzerland, Russia, Belarus and Belgium. The tour began with with ten nights at Bercy in Paris, the final show of the tour taking place in Nice on December  6 2013.

Ahead of any live dates next year, Mylène has been invited to appear on a TV show focussing on Jean-Paul Gaultier on France 2 next month. The French TV channel is screening a special programme about the French fashion legend, who has influenced a generation of artists in fields including fashion and music.

Gaultier, a friend od Mylène, designed costumes for Mylène's Tour 2009 and Timeless 2013 live shows as well as for some of her videos. Speaking earlier this year, Gaultier said that he could design the costumes for a forthcoming Mylène Farmer tour.

Among the others expected on the show are Catherine Ringer, Indochine and Christine and the Queens.

Mylène releases her 11th studio album, Désobéissance on Friday, a collection that includes the singles Rolling Stone, N'oublie pas and the recently released Sentimentale.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Mylène Farmer: Sentimentale

A new track from the forthcoming new album by Mylène Farmer has emerged, with a video for the track Sentimentale the week ahead of the release of Désobéissance.

It's a fairly basic video, mostly a graphic with what looks like home movies of  Mylène enjoying some down time alone with her dogs. It's perhaps a lower key clip than usual,  no costumes, no locations and no rich cinematography. Instead it has the feel of something more relaxed, perhaps to show a more approachable side to Mylène, or perhaps it was just put together quickly to accompany the release of the track.

Fans will no doubt still be scouring it in minute details to determine exactly the state of Mylène's art.

The single is availeble from all the streaming and legal download platforms. No word as yet on a physical release, but that can't be far away.

Sentimentale is the third track to come out ahead of the release of Désobéissance, following Rolling Stone and N'oublie pas. It was produced by Feder, who aso produced Rolling Stone and is involved in many of the other tracks on the new album,

Désobéissance will inevitably be one of the biggest releases in France this year. The two previous singles have both added to Mylène's impressive collection of number one singles in France since the start of her career in the 80s. It's a fair bet that this one will also make a significant chart impact.

But the real test will be with the release of the new album. It is Mylène's first release on a new label, Sony, so there will perhaps be more eyes measuring its impact than before as well as determining her next moves.

More singles? More film work? A tour? Mylène always keeps her plans well guarded, but the success of the new album may play a significant measure in what Mylène does next.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Lomepal: 1000°C clip

Love this video by Lomepal, taking French rap to far stranger territory than it might normally go.

It's the first track from his forthcoming new album which is due out in December and features a contribution from Belgian rapper Roméo Elvis.

Lomepal's debut album Flip was released in June last year and was one of the biggest selling rap albums of the year.

The Paris-based artist, known to his family and friends as Antoine Valentinelli has attracted a huge number of views to his work on YouTube, released his first EP  20 mesures in 2011, following it with Le singe fume sa cigarette in 2013.

His rigourous live schedule has helped him build up a massive following ahe he plays at the Détonation festival in Besancon at the end of the month.

He's got a sold-out show at the Olympia in Paris on October 4, and he recently announced a tour of the arenas around France, Belgium and Switzerland early next year including the Zénith in Paris on February 20.

Christine and the Queens: La marcheuse

A new video by Christine and the Queens emerges just days ahead of the much anticipated new album.

It's interesting to see Heloïse Letissier portrayed as a bullfighter in the video, albeit one who makes friends with a bull. She's had a bit of a fight so far with critics of her new material and new image, but this track certainly shows more of the crisp electo-pop that made Chaleur Humaine so irresistable.

Like the bull in the video, she'll inevitably win them over.

An English language version of the song - entitled The Walker - will feature on the international version of the new album

Three clips have already come out ahead of the release of the new collection, due at the end of the week in two versions - a French version with 12 tracks and an international version, predominately in English, with 11 tracks.

Extensive tour dates are scheduled around Europe and North America from next month, with shows in the UKand Ireland in November before dates in Switzerland and France in December ending with two nights at the Accorhotels Arena in Paris on December 18 and 19.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Jain: Souldier on French TV

An appearance by Jain on the France 2 TV show On n'est pas couché at the weekend, with an interview and an acoustic performance of the title track of her recently released second album.

I've probably not mentioned Jain's album as much as it deserves. Her debut album Zanaka was a massive seller, leading to her actually making some inroads with an English speaking audience, with appearances on Later with Jools Holland in the UK and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in the USA.

If there's a French artist likely to follow Christine and the Queens into the uncharted waters of anglo-saxon recognition in the near future, it's a fair bet that it will be Jain.

Her new album was released last month following the release of Alright and the title track as singles.

She's a charming artist who is quite startlingly talented, as the acoustic solo performance on this appearance shows.

She's got a full schedule of live dates ahead to support the new album, with shows in North America next month and two gigs in the UK - Manchester on November 26 and London on November 27 and an extensive tour ahead around France next year.