Happy French National Day everyone!
Known more commonly in English-speaking countries as Bastille Day, it is a celebration that has long had a form place in my heart.
A student of French for the entire six years of high school, weekday occurrences of Bastille Day were spent watching French films, eating croissants (bought at a Provençal patisserie in nearby Lismore, NSW where we had to order in French or go hungry) and of course, listening to some catchy French pop.
I still listen to as much of France’s wholly-unique music output as I can and these five artists are right up there with my favourites, five gifted musicians who know their way around a captivating melody, gorgeously insightful lyrics and a spirit of experimentation that adds a gloriously-wonderful quirky element to music that is very much of the heart and mind.
Profitez de l’écoute!
“Château Perdu” by Cléa Vincent
Parisian Cléa Vincent is a talented singer/songwriter, and member of music project Garçons alongside Carmen Maria Vega and Zaza Fournier, who has one foot in the past and one in the present.
It may sound awkward, but creatively it’s a brilliant combination with the evocative recalling of what French music site Les Inrockuptibles calls “French chanson and new-wave 90’s” sitting winningly alongside a chilled, rhythmic electro-pop.
“Château Perdu”, which dropped back in 2014 as part of her second album Retiens mon désir (Remember My Desire) which followed her first two EPs Non mais Oui 1/2 and Non mais Oui 2/2 (No but yes Vol.1 and vol.2), reflects her penchant for minimalist reflective pop, her love of artists like Michel Berger, Thelonious Monk and Carole Berger, and what she refers in her Facebook bio as a “disconcerting honesty”.
It’s an appealing mix that evokes a lustrous past, and confirms not only her firm place in current French music but a career that is likely to be long and melodically fruitful.
“Béton mouillé” by Fishbach
Signed to Parisian independent record label Entreprise, Fishbach, known to her proud parents as Flora Fischbach, combines pop, rock and what is known in France as “variety” music.
The cumulative effect of that genre synergising are bewitchingly haunting songs such as the goosebump-inducing auditory mysticism of “Béton mouillé” which recalls traits that Gigwise notes have come to be associated with the artist – “Evanescent, lunar, sensual but also remarkably dark and theatrical”.
It is the kind of richly atmospheric music that you can disappear into, feeling like you’re an extra in some darkly epic tale of love, loss and places new and old.
Her shows have also made quite the impression according to Gigwise, and frankly if you’re having this kind of effect on people, you are definitely doing something right.
“French journalists have a lot to say about her hypnotic shows, and they are definitely worth the trip. ‘The bottle doesn’t matter, as long as you reach drunkenness’, once said Alfred de Musset. Well, that’s probably true, but Fishbach has a hell of a bottle to get you intoxicated.”
“L’Amour en Solitaire” by Juliette Armanet
Moving from handing in copy to writing songs, ex-journalist and pianist Juliette Armanet has an obvious gift for drawing evocative emotion from lushly simple but undeniably listenable songs such as “L’Amour en Solitaire”.
The naturally piano-driven song is a laidback, sparingly melodic song that rides on the crest of a devastatingly beautiful melody and the artist’s gloriously-luminous voice that has been likened to that English actress and singer, Jane Birkin.
The overall sound could be described as sparse but it’s intoxicatingly lovely and more robust and noticeable than you might first think; this is music borne of life’s experiences and given charmingly raw expression.
Whatever you gain from her music, it’s undeniable that it’s the kind of music you can happily drift on into, your heart as massaged and happy as your ears.
“Tears of Lava” by Burning Peacocks
Winners of my award for the best duo name I’ve heard in some time, even if the RSPCA may disagree, Burning Peacocks, around since 2011, is made up of singer/actress Alma Jodorowsky (Blue is the Warmest Colour) and David Baudart.
The name it turns out, has a derivation as fascinating as the band itself, according to Jodorowsky who was interviewed by Vice back in 2014:
“Burning Peacocks was the first name of My Bloody Valentine, a band that came back a lot when we were talking about our influences… It was like a tribute to them. We also liked the mysticism and the grace of this animal.”
Name aside, and yes I am in love with it, the music more than lives up to its promise with “Tears of Lava” possessing an inviting breathy languor that is mesmerising and seductive in equal measure.
It’s exquisitely dreamy pop that will lull you into the most wonderful of places, a languid journey to the sort of destinations our pell-mell society often forgets to visit.
“Sylvia Says” by Charlotte Gainsbourg
I have been utterly and completely captivated by the winsomely attractive music of Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of creative luminaries Jane Birkin and French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, since I first heard her song “5:55” in 2006.
Creating music that tends to dwell in the quietly stripped-back part of our lives – her first album came out when she was 15, recorded, naturally enough, with her father – her newest music such as the hypnotically-rich “Sylvia Says” continues her ability to meld weight emotional insight with almost fey but beguiling melodies.
Sung with what Pitchfork calls “hushed urgency”, in and of itself an evocative phrase worthy of repeat, “Sylvia Says” reflects the darkness and grief of the album, Rest, from which it is drawn:
“[The song is] a perplexingly funky but delightful homage to [Sylvia Plath’s poem] “Mad Girl’s Love Song”, builds a Revolution-worthy bass groove into Sylvia Plath’s lovesick verse from 1953.”
It might all be seen as too introspectively bleak, but Gainsbourg makes it come alive, rather ironically given its origin, marrying the deeply philosophical lyrics with a lightly-jaunty beat and skippingly-light melody that contrasts the light and dark of life beautifully.