34 eclectic sounds fresh from the French airwaves, sample them now.The Unofficial soundtrack to the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival.
The Alliance Francaise French Film FestivalDiscovering new music is like the thrilling adventure of a treasure hunt, and over the past five years the intrepid So Frenchy So Chic hunters have unearthed a glittering array of the best new songs.
Each annual quest sets out to carefully select tracks which not only take us to France, but also take us somewhere deep within ourselves. It’s a place that’s universal. The French don’t hold a patent on joy, melancholy, passion or even daggy dance moves.When one album is finished another begins – that’s 12 months of fossicking around festivals, airwaves, websites, blogs, record shops, iTunes and listening to hundreds of songs. Given the success of the project (over 100,000 copies sold) it’s clear a growing audience shares this enthusiasm.
It’s a lot of work but it’s also clearly a lot of fun. Today the music scene in France boasts a seemingly boundless array of talented artists. And the treasure chest that makes up the 2010 So Frenchy double album offers 34 absolute gems. Just a few highlights would have to include Emmanuelle Seigner, the actress wife of controversial director Roman Polanski, serving up a perfect 80s-esque slice of optimism called Le jour parfait. Another film star making an appearance is Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of French music god Serge and a Cannes Best Actress winner for Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, with a trippy electro track from her latest album, IRM.
Vanessa Paradis may be the best known pop star outside the borders of France, with the possible exception of the First Lady. For over twenty years she has been a much loved mainstay at the top of the charts, and her flat out irresistible Des que j’te vois has been a hit not only at home but on dance floors across the channel. However, as with any voyage of discovery, it’s the unexpected detours which can really delight. So Frenchy is proud to present defiantly catchy tracks by the unsigned act Djeuhdjoah & Lieutenant Nicholson and current ‘it girls’ Amandine Bourgeois, Hindi Zahra and Charlotte Etc. Old favourites Nouvelle Vague also offer something unreleased – a typically genius and glorious cover of Fad Gadget’s Under The Flag.
This year So Frenchy also includes shout outs to the francophone Canadian province of Quebec with sweet selections from Ariane Moffatt and the 19 year old internet sensation Coeur de pirate (aka Béatrice Martin) with her unavoidably feelgood and winsome Comme des enfants. Back home the ever popular Mathieu Chedid, known simply as M, appears not once but twice with the assuredly laidback Le roi des ombres and the Django Reinhart meets Andrews Sisters throwback Belleville Rendez-Vous from the Oscar nominated retro animated film, The Triplets Of Belleville.
There’s some 50s style retro in the mix too when Emilie Simon (often dubbed ‘the French Björk’) leaves behind her experimental soundscapes to present the big and brassy Broadway-inspired Rocket to the moon. Last year’s cause célèbre Carmen Maria Vega – a chameleon like chanteuse who presents herself as multiple musical personalities – also channels the style of Ella Fitzgerald in the more low key but equally jazzy En attendant. So Frenchy always throws up some charming twists, such as tracks by the urban poet Ridan (‘nadir’ backwards) and the post-punk wild man Rachid Taha. Both are known for their searing indictments of racism in France, but this time they offer some light in the darkness with sincere and buoyant songs of hope.
The shock of hearing French pop stars singing in English has long worn off, but the surprise of hearing such a diverse range of genres never goes away. Among many others en anglais this year we hear the Brit Beat Boom inspired and instantly memorable Get around town by some classically trained (but Radiohead and Beach Boys loving) lads called Revolver.
Another genre found stomping away is circus infused chanson with the always popular and theatrical Lyonnais group Babylon Circus in Le fils caché, about the secret son of a Pope no less. There’s also the ever present ghost of chanson proper when the legendary accordion player Jean Corti paints a plaintive backdrop for vocalist Lola Lafon’s wee small hours cover of the Barbara classic, Göttingen.
For now though it’s time to dust off the old treasure maps and set out once again for the next edition. So much music, so little time.