dinsdag 29 december 2009

Lola Baï

Thanks to FransS, Lola Baï didn't slip under our radar. The girl from the north of France released an album earlier this year that fans of the early Emilie Simon might like. Although Lola doesn't have that Lolita-voice, her lyrics are in the same vein as Simon's, and she pairs electronics with acoustics in a natural way. She got productional help from Serge Faubert, guitarplayer for Kébous. She does some English songs (charming, but not as good as the French tracks), sings in Latin, makes you dance to a housebeat, but the remarkable moments are when she keeps it midtempo, and puts a spell on you with her wonderful voice and some electronic aid.

Lola Baï - Pas a grand chose
Lola Baï - Mon coeur idiot

See a beautiful rendition of Regarder les hommes here.

maandag 28 december 2009

Sélection de Lundi: Alain Bashung

When Alain Bashung hit it big in 1981 – Gaby oh Gaby was in the French charts for 54 weeks and sold a million copies –, they called him the „Johnny Hallyday de la New Wave“. Actually, the Gallic super-antistar who garnered eleven Victoires de la Musique awards between 1985 and 2009, sounded all-too-often more like a campfire Paolo Conte merging voguish Bowie attitude with an unhealthy Dylan obsession, stadium grandiloquence style – including a whole lot of obnoxious Frenchican Rock Bummers (see here), but also some significantly dazzling results, especially on 82’s Play Blessures, then teaming up with lyricist Serge Gainsbourg (!) who probably would have liked to inflict those wounds himself: Combining lupine lamentos with early 80s No Wave splinters, this is French Rock’s Metallic K.O., with unmistakably hypnotic qualities.

Alain Bashung – J’envisage
Alain Bashung – Bistouri scalpel
Alain Bashung – Junge Männer

From the recently released Dimanches a l'Elysée live-album, one of Guuzbourg's favourite Bashung-songs:
Alain Bashung - La nuit je mens

donderdag 24 december 2009

Floating in December

For some quite extraordinary Xmas songs, don’t forget to go here. Before you do, check out Marine Boréale with Noël en Été, a demo song Guuz posted in the hot summer of 2007 for the first time – a lighthearted, airy gem Bruxelles-based Marine recorded with the help of singer/ songwriter Joachim Jannin who also worked with German chanteuse Kitty Hoff. Somehow this tune manages to defy gravity – pictured is a useful device to keep your girlfriend on the ground.

Marine Boréale – Noël en Été

maandag 21 december 2009

Ten Down: Les 10 Plus Mauvais Albums de la Décennie

We gathered the best French albums of the decade a few weeks ago, but left out the duds. Anyway, John Cleese once claimed that it’s simply wrong to be French, and here’s ten good (and of course utterly impartial) reasons for that, listening-wise:

Camille – Le Fil (2005)
Qu’est-ce que c’est? Bobby McFerrin without cojones? Edith Piaf on nitrous oxide? In any case, a highly unenjoyable mixture of priggish vocal acrobatics, show-offy pseudo art, and Gallic chichi r&b. Ta douleur? Exactement.

Emilie Simon – The Big Machine (2009)
This hideous contraption is an apparatus similar to those in SAW III, only directly aimed at your inner ear: After Björkification, Emilie underwent (Kate) Bushization, electro style. Feels like clubbing at Guantanamo Bay.

Carla Bruni – Comme si de rien n’était (2008)
The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie: Music that would never dare to disturb or touch, full of amazement about why those banlieue kids never went to a Swiss boarding school. There’s a reason why they always play Carla (pictured above next to the hat of the month) at the pedicure studio next door.

Alain Bashung – Bleu Pétrole (2008)
A spectacularly tedious malheur & tristesse album amalgamating the spirit of thousands of dreadful American singer/ songwriter numbers – if you’re looking for Tom Waits’ attitude paired with Michel Sardou bathos, a surefire winner.

Keren Ann – Same (2007)
Keren Ann in English sounds like Velvet Underground in drag, combined with the lyrics of a 12-year-old; everything else is flagrantly cribbed from Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval et al. 45 min of heard-it-all-before, predictable and boring.

Benjamin Biolay/ Chiara Mastroianni – Home (2004)
Love is blind, and if Biolay’s honeymoon was as exciting as these recordings ... well, foreshadowing a premature case of ennui conjugale, it won’t get more limp, lukewarm and uninspired like this.

Francoise Hardy – Parenthèses (2006)
Like to cuddle with Granny? Hardy has always been the least sexy of all French songbirds, and these duets with Delon, Biolay et cetera are her take on old age sensuality, including a sundowner cocktail with ... Julio Iglesias!

Nouvelle Vague – Bande à part (2006)
Punk & New Wave classics done bossa reggae cutie style – nifty concept, but how often you want to hear the same old joke again?

Francoiz Breut – À l’aveuglette (2008)
Francoiz is wonderfully introvert, empathetic, and sensitive, at least in the mind of introvert and sensitive French language students still looking for a nice lay. Earnest and heartfelt indie pop without any humour or the slightest idea of a catchy song.

Coralie Clément – Toystore (2008)
Certainly not one of the worst French records of the decade. But compared to Coralie’s previous efforts, an uneven mix of shallow melodies without texture or direction: a fruitless try to please everyone, and a painful waste of talent.


Sélection de Lundi: The Other Serge

Casque d’or, La ronde, Le doulos, L’armée des ombres: Serge Reggiani was already a highly acclaimed star of the French silver screen when he – encouraged by Simone Signoret and Yves Montand – turned to singing in 1965 with SR chante Boris Vian. His chef d’œuvre may well be Rupture (1971, pictured) – a brilliant album oscillating between grand melancholy, mild cynicism and mature knowledge unsurpassed in the history of French song. La putain combines Reggiani’s unique phrasing with a perfectly arranged composition by Michel Legrand and the classy poetic imagery of lyricist Jean-Loup Dabadie – a 3:42 min short story about the lost bird of youth and those secrets behind the jalousies.

Serge Reggiani – La putain

vrijdag 18 december 2009

Le Pop 5

Oliver and Rolf of Le Pop are a huge influence on this blog, and of my preoccupation with French Music. I almost nodded my head off when I read what they wrote as an introduction to the Le Pop 5 compilation (the seventh compilation they did so far): 'Our aim is to show the beauty of current French music from France, Canada or other French-speaking countries. As usual, in doing so we apply our own selection criteria, where as of yet unknown artists can stand their ground next to the stars. Totally subjective, and therefore totally personal. And without any notion of a fight against anything (say, Anglo-American culture, Gzbrg), because in a fight the chances are high you clench.'
Le Pop 5 contains songs of the highest quality, by artists that have been featured on this blog too. Like Sammy Decoster, Dominique A, Coeur de Pirate, Vincent Delerm and Chat. Brandspanking new From an upcoming album is the gorgeous duet by Bastien Lallement and Armelle Pioline (she of Holden). It's from Lallement's new cd, featuring murder ballads. Pascal Parisot, Bertrand Belin and Albin de la Simone join Lallement too. Out next year. Keep watching this space.

Bastien Lallement & Armelle Pioline - La plage

woensdag 16 december 2009

A Loulia

Seb and Melanie of A Loulia keep surprising me. With their choice of covers (here, and here), but also with their originals. Parole de Nuit is a song you want to hear just before you go to sleep, to dream the strange dream that Melanie wants you to. Very Gainsbougian, very exciting.

A Loulia - Parole de nuit

Martha Wainwright

Call it an invocation: On Sans Fusil, Ni Souliers, à Paris, born Quebecoise Martha Wainwright pays homage to La Môme de Paris, also known as Édith Piaf, she of the immortal chansons and wildest affairs. The fifteen tracks on the album – all lesser-known songs from the Piaf repertoire, so don’t expect to see Milord or Je ne regrette rien here – were recorded during three intimate performances at New York’s Dixon Palace Theatre. And though Wainwright can’t compete with Piaf’s warmth, frailty, and hyperbolic Gallic pathos by a far cry, she manages to capture the magic of Piaf’s songs in her own emotive, achingly expressive style, complete with 30s cabaret atmosphere, grand-sweep heartbreak melancholia, and some genuine chair de poule moments.

Martha Wainwright – Le Foule
Martha Wainwright – Adieu Mon Coeur

Edith Piaf – Sous le ciel de Paris

And since the family should be together for Xmas:

Loudon Wainwright – Hometeam Crowd
Rufus Wainwright – Spotlight on Christmas

dinsdag 15 december 2009

Tips of the Tongue: Casey Scott

You’ve heard Casey here, but her voice deserves its own entry. Usually chanteuse of Portland’s enchantingly named Red Venus Love Army, she’s the pop star of Todd Bishop’s jazz variations of Gainsbourg classics on 69 Année Erotique: Todd Bishop’s Pop Art 4 Plays the Music of SG. And while the damp biscuit saxophone on their adaptation of Je t’aime only confirms my worst suspicions about the relationship of jazz & sex, Casey’s vocals („Come and go, go and come“) jostle the whole song just to where it belongs – on a waterbed in a dim-lit room, with some nonchalant tips of the tongue, slow-motion style.

Casey Scott w/ Todd Bishop – Je t’aime (moi non plus)


The Return of Nous Non Plus

Nous Non Plus’ debut was undoubtedbly one of the best, and definitely the funniest album of 2005 – One Night in Paris being one of the catchiest tunes of the decade, and no, it’s not about the French capital. For some reason, their second album, already released in February, went unnoticed under the FS radar. Time to set things straight: Ménagerie has it all, irresistible power pop gems, cocktail lounge chic, garage bite, Eurodisco sleaze, and summer joie de vivre retro feel, charged with the will to find the perfect melody. Reminiscent of the spirit of similarly neglected 70s Dutch pop intertextualists Gruppo Sportivo, this is cool of the highest order, though probably too witty for its own good – NN+ is the band, and A++ is the rating.

Nous Non Plus – French Teacher
Nous Non Plus – Bollinger

Yup, and that soup is still hot:

Nous Non Plus – One Night in Paris

Unsurpassed tune, not about Paris Hilton:

Gruppo Sportivo - Mission à Paris


Vos petites mains faites-moi crier

Mediocre talent highlighted by male chauvinism (web comment). Erm: Nude content again.

Christmas with France

France de Griessen, the blonde hard-rocking fille whom we got to know here, made a very special Christmas track for all Filles Sourires visitors. It's sweet, it's funny, it's L-O-U-D. It's a cover of this, which is a response to this.

Joyeux noël!

France de Griessen - PP Haine

(picture was made by BlackHeart)

Shhhhhhh ... sexy

Mobitel Slovenia rocks. Music by faux-French favorites Nous Non Plus.

maandag 14 december 2009

Conversation with Gainsbourg

Today I had the privilige of interviewing Charlotte Gainsbourg over the phone, for a one-page story. She did so many interviews already (almost all French interviews are collected on this excellent blog), there was hardly anything left to ask. We talked about the video for Heaven Can Wait - Charlotte said that she immediatly loved the idea for the video when she read the script, and that the director had almost cart blanche. She and Beck were on the set for one day, she saw the other scenes later. I asked if it was inspired by the movie Donnie Darko, but it isn't. To her, the video is more about the atmosphere of Los Angeles, a city she never visited until this project. She confirmed that all three doctors who treated her after the waterskiing incident are in the thank-list of the album, and that her husband Yvan is mentioned in the personnel-list just 'cause he was there during the recordings. Her kids, Ben (12) and Alice (5) do play on the record. Like many things during the recordings, that was spontaneous. Ben was behind a drumkit, and Beck and Charlotte both liked the beat so it was recorded (without Ben knowing that he was) and used for Trick Pony. Alice's 'monster screams' are recorded from the studio-intercom, she was just fooling around and again, they liked the sound and used it for Greenwich Mean Time.
When I asked if both her children and Yvan play a role on the album to celebrate, in a way, that mummy survived a brain hemorrhage, she said: 'That would be a little pretentious, would it not?'
When asked about Dandelion, one of my favourite songs on the album, she said it wasn't inspired by T-Rex (like I thought) but more by Robert Johnson. Beck had her listen to the old blues maestro, as you know he would. He also recommended Panda Bear, M.I.A., Animal Collective and Dory Prévin to Charlotte. I'd never heard of that last artist, but when I was listening to some songs I could understand why Beck wanted Charlotte to hear her music.
About touring - there's a good chance she will do some concerts. There is a band, and she's less terrified to be on stage than she was. She recalled the show I saw with Air in Amsterdam. 'I was so nervous, I couldn't move a finger during those two songs.'

Dory Prévin - Beware of young girls
Dory Prévin - With my daddy in the attic (imagine a cover of this song by Charlotte!)
Charlotte Gainsbourg - Looking Glass Blues (bonus track on the limited edition of IRM)
Charlotte Gainsbourg - Heaven Can Wait (Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear remix)

Covers Deluxe: Les Terribles

Gallic garage entrepreneurs Les Terribles are suckers for French yéyé icons Larry Greco and Christine Pilzer: As for their collaboration with Christine, watch this. However, their coolest pick so far has been Pourquoi Je Pleure – a cover of Why Do I Cry by The Remains, Boston’s mid-sixties pre-punksters featuring genius guitarist/ songwriter Barry Tashian who would later play on Gram Parsons’ country hippie debut G.P. The original is unbeatable, but Les Terribles throw in a gorgeous female voice and some kick-in-the-nuts fuzz riffwork. 1966 again!

Les Terribles – Pourquoi Je Pleure
The Remains – Why Do I Cry (Live version)


Sélection de Lundi: Todd Bishop

During our recent Hole in the Head marathon, Guuz already recommended Portland jazz drummer Todd Bishop and his take on Serge. On 69 Année Erotique, Bishop and his crew reinvent the title track as an Andy Williams lounge showtune including a lysergic spacescape at the backdoor, transform Le Walkie Talkie into a fusion orgy, and resurrect Initials B.B. with surf guitar reverb, funky licks, sultry sax and the whispered vocals of Casey Scott, otherwise singer of Portland’s Red Venus Love Army – Miss Sexy Voice 2009 for sure. Actually, American jazz reviewers were so intoxicated by the album that they began to improvise about „Jane Birken“ and „Bridgette Bardot“; they really have some creative scribes over there.

Todd Bishop – 69 Année Erotique
Todd Bishop w/ Casey Scott – Initials B.B.


zaterdag 12 december 2009

Charlotte à Taratata!

43 Minutes of Charlotte Gainsbourg live at Taratata. With an extensive interview and career overview. She also plays three songs live, one of which is a breathtaking version of 'Just Like A Woman', the track she covered with Calexico for the Bob Dylan biopic.
Merci mille fois.

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Just like a woman - Live

donderdag 10 december 2009

Filles Sourires Best of the Year List

Thanks everyone for sending in your yearlists. I counted all the votes, and here are the results. Some of the contribuants added comments, I'm citing from those.

1. Benjamin Biolay - La Superbe. No competition, almost everyone mentioned this album. 'Biolay surpasses himself by climbing the highest peaks of romance, without stumbling over the violins or offkey-arrangements.'
2. Emily Loizeau - Pays Sauvage. Freakfolk fille wins hearts and minds of many. 'Her voice is absolutely incredible on this; a bit raw, sexily gruff, and very intense.'
3. Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM. Just out, but we're feeling it already. 'With IRM she turns oppression into a delicate excitement. Just because she can.'
4. Claire Denamur - s/t. Few can resist this girl with the sun in her voice. 'Hope she’ll come to Holland one day, to perform, not to visit her grandma.'
5. La Patere Rose - s/t. Fresh Canadian kaleidoscope-pop. 'Obligatory stuff for all visitors over here.'
6. Dominique A - La musique. The veteran of la nouvelle scene Française hails back to the dark 80s. 'His best lyrics ever.'
7. La Fiancée - EP. It took just four songs to make a big impression. We cannot wait for the full album. 'Simply beautiful.'
8. Rose - Les Souvenirs Sous Ma Frange. A girl, a guitar. What else do you need? 'Sense and simplicity to the max. Carla Bruni, eat your heart out.'
9. V/A - Gainsnord. 18 bands paid tribute to Serge. My project, you loved it. Thanks. Really.
10. Sammy Decoster - Tucumcari. Thank god he's a countryboy. 'After "Can white men sing the blues?" the question "Can frenchies do Americana?" should be answered with a yes!'

A special mix with songs from ten albums (including a special demo-version!) can be downloaded here.
Benjamin Biolay - La Superbe; Charlotte Gainsbourg - La collectionneuse; Emily Loizeau - Sister; Claire Denamur - Prince charmant; La Patere Rose - Les Deux Bonnes Soeurs; Dominique A - Immortels; La Fiancée - Cette autre; Rose - Ma corde au clou; Leine - Ford Mustang (demo version); Sammy Decoster - Tucumcari.

Jeanne & Emily cover Serge

You saw Dionysos rock the hell out of Nazi Rock (here!), but the soundtrack to the upcoming (and no doubt brilliant) Gainsbourg movie holds more surprises. Jeanne Cherhal and Emily Loizeau giggle their way through Qui est 'in', Qui est 'out', like they're two schoolgirls. Exactly the way director Joann Sfar wanted it. Other contributors to the soundtrack are Nosfell, Gonzales, Laetitia Casta of course (she sings Comic Strip) and Katerine - the latter plays Boris Vian. Can't wait until January!

Jeanne Cherhal & Emily Loizeau - Qui est 'in', qui est 'out'

woensdag 9 december 2009

Olivia (bonus)

Miss Météores, Olivia Ruiz' latest album, is re-released with bonustracks. Gawd, how I hate it when they do this. And record companies still wonder why people think they're money greedy basterds who don't care about the fans? Hah. Anyhoo, the bonus tracks are mostly demos ('versions maquette') and a few new songs. My guess is that Buck65 worked with Ruiz on Bunny Maloney (he did the electronica on single Elle panique), and the track with Christian Olivier sounds very Amélie Poulain, but isn't that good as the duet on the regular album.

Olivia Ruiz - Bunny Maloney
Olivia Ruiz - Le Saule Pleureur (version maquette)

maandag 7 december 2009


Don't forget to send me your Best French Album Top 10 of 2009, so I can make one big Filles Sourires Best of 2009 list. I received a few already, but I need more! Guuzbourg(a)gmail(dot)com is that address to send your top 10 to. Please, only releases from 2009, and not too many compilations please. Deadline December 10!!

For inspiration, here is my yearlist:

1. Benjamin Biolay - La Superbe. Title says it all. Double fun from the dark prince of French rock. Jazz, britrock, Argentinian tangometal, nouvelle chanson, it's all there, it's all great.
2. Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM. She nearly died. She called Beck, and together they made a worthy follow-up to her masterpiece 5.55. Both her kids play on it, and her husband. A celebration of life.
3. Claire Denamur - s/t. The girl with the smile in her voice, the Dutch roots and the American upbringing. Sexy, smart, funny: an album like your favourite springtime.
3. La Patere Rose - s/t. It's sooooo fresh! It's so strange, too. Bubblegum-pop with kaleidoscope eyes. From Quebec - a stamp of quality, for this year a lot of great albums came out of Canada.
4. Sammy Decoster - Tucumcari. He went down to the crossroads, and came back with an album that had Arizona desert dust mixed with pastis in it's grooves. French country, in many ways.
5. Kent - Panorama. Could be disastrous, looking back on your own songs and trying something acoustic. But Kent Cokenstock made a fantastic album, with a litttle help from (among others) Barbara Carlotti, Suzanne Vega. He can be proud of himself.
6. Peppermoon - Nos ballades. I've been telling you since 2006, this Parisian trio is magical. They proved it on cd.
7. Daniel Belanger - Nous. Canadian veteran tries some soul on for size, and makes his best album of his (highly succesful) career. Rock'n soul, Quebec-style.
8. Rose - Les Souvenirs Sous Ma Frange. Proof that girl-with-a-guitar is still a winning formula.
9. Liben - Tout va disparaitre. Wallonie's Vincent Liben let go of the Gainsbourg in himself, with beautiful result.
10. Carmen Maria Vega - s/t. Energetic Django-fied girl, the female version of Thomas Dutronc.


So, we had Marianne Dissard, we had Sammy Decoster, we had Alain Bashung, we had Francoiz Breut...and now we have Madjo. Another French artist (born out of parents from France and Senegal) who takes inspiration from the American south. On her first EP she covers Leadbelly (yep, Where Did You Sleep Last Night), and she names Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson and Jon Brion as influences. She sings in French and English, and because of her throaty voice she sure ain't no fille fragile. But she got soul, and with that Fender Rhodes piano, you can't go wrong in my book. Le Monstre sounds like Beck was at the controls, could've been a song on Charlotte's IRM album. More songs and videos on Myspace.

Madjo - Le Monstre

Sélection de Lundi: Pump Up the Volume

Even over in snowy Oregon, them filles sourires seem to have a certain reputation. Portland’s Ascetic Junkies pay their hommage to Gallic beauties with jingle-jangling indie pop plus a dose of bluegrass fun:

Paul, when you get to heaven there'll be/ All these angels mostly sizes C and D/ Well-endowed with God's great majesty

So Paul, you'll love to hear everything that they say/ Even just "Je ne parle pas Anglais"/ You're not that into language anyway.

Well, it's not exactly what I’d call the Jane B. cup hymn, but then a great singalong tune anyway. Caution: Don’t see right. Get even with your breast fixation.

The Ascetic Junkies – French Girls


zaterdag 5 december 2009

Salut Poupée

It doesn't get more stylish than this. Sexy glasses, too.

vrijdag 4 december 2009

Christmas wishlist

Joann Sfar made the coffeetablebook Gainsbourg Hors Champ with his (drawn) moviescript. I got it today. It's marvellous. This movie cannot fail. More pics from the book here.

Tony Frank made many beautiful pictures of Serge, Jane, Charlotte, Bambou and Lulu. They're all collected in this book.

donderdag 3 december 2009

Gainsbourg, the movie + Dionysos

Dionysos (Sky posted their scorching version of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde earlier) also did an intense cover of Serge's Nazi Rock for the upcoming movie by Joann Sfar (those are his drawings).

dinsdag 1 december 2009

Sandra Nkake

Sandra Nkake probably has the smokiest voice in France - it's so hoarse, you can light a candle with it. The gorgeous chocolate-coloured singer/actress appeared on this blog before - as the singer of the underrated Marc Collin-project Ollano, and because of her solo-album, that sports a magnificent Brassens-cover. La mauvaise reputation is now remixed by Blackjoy, now it's even more beautiful. To remind you of the brilliance of Ollano, here's another song from that album.

Sandra Nkaka - La mauvaise reputation (Blackjoy remix)
Ollano - Antipodes