It’s little wonder Daft Punk never take those helmets off given the momentum of hype they are experiencing; their little faces would be ripped off by the G-force. The duo are to gallic pop what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, though in all the furore it would be easy to miss some of the other great pop musique coming out of France right now. 2013 is turning out to be a fertile time across La Manche, and here are just ten new sensations (and some slightly older big hitters) making waves this summer.
Pop Noire’s Lescop caused a stir in the UK last year with his ‘La Forêt’ single, and now one expects a similar clamour for the 34-year-old from Châteauroux’s brilliant eponymously titled debut album, a delicious melange of throbbing, sexy bass, hypnotic electro grooves, indie guitar noodlings and his thoughtful lyrics and noir-ish croon. It’ll be no coincidence Mathieu Peudupin (for it is he) grew up listening to dark Anglo indiepop like The Cure and Depeche Mode, for here you will find summer bangers galore for those with an aversion to sunshine.
Labelmates Savages have managed to maintain momentum despite taking what seemed like an eternity to record their album and finally sign on with a bigger label (Matador beat off an array of suitors to win the signatures of the South-London based four-piece for a licensing deal). Though three-quarters English, Savages singer Jehnny Beth hails from Poitiers and starred in a few French films before coming to England; she was also one half of John & Jehn with her boyfriend, also on Pop Noire (Johnny Hostile part-produced their album). ‘Silence Yourself ‘was certainly worth the wait, with the band adamant they had to somehow transfer their incendiary live presence to record. That’s been achieved, it’s an assured, rollicking debut, and a shrewd gamble will hopefully pay off for them.
If you’ve not yet experienced the psychedelic wonderment of Melody’s Echo Chamber then you’ve probably been living under a rock. Last year’s eponymously titled debut, recorded with Kevin Parker, brought Melody Prochet to the attention of the music and style press in one lysergic rush that looks set to last. Marseilles-born Melody will be touring with Tame Impala (who else?) this year, and will also make appearances at Glastonbury, Primavera, Liverpool Sound City and Live at Leeds (and keep ‘em peeled for an imminent announcement about a forthcoming single).
Phoenix have not exactly risen from any ashes, but since their formation at the end of the 90’s they’ve crept up with a stealth and fortitude to become quietly, unobtrusively massive. Historically French musicians have had most success in electropop and la chanson, but Phoenix have ploughed their own furrow and shown the world how to be an alternative rock band from France and make it big in all territories. The four-piece who hail from Versailles have just released ‘Bankrupt!’ – only their fifth album in 13 years – and while they’ve said it’s a more experimental affair, lead single ‘Entertainment’ manages to retain plenty of that trademark Phoenix fromage.
Sébastien Tellier is one for confounding not only critics but also his own fans. The author of the incandescently gorgeous ‘La Ritournelle’ saw last year’s ‘My God Is Blue’ album come out to mixed reviews despite a budget as deep as a Jacques Cousteau ocean dip. If some of his devotees were unsure about the new album then a call to his fans to run away with him and form a sect confused the hell out of almost everyone. His buffoonery is only matched by his ability to create beauty out of nothing, and this new track with Caroline Polachek is an example of that. The bad news? You’ve just missed the release… the song was only pressed up 650 times for the recent Record Store Day (Disquaire Day in France) and will take staggering tenacity and beaucoup l’argent to get hold of.
In days of yore Tomorrow’s World was a BBC television programme that featured inventions from the future! like flying cars! and amplifiers made of wallpaper! with the theme tune purloined from French synth pioneer Jean Michel Jarre. From one keyboard wizard to two more, as Jean-Benoît Dunckel from Air swaps his customary partner in crime Nicolas Godin for Lou Hayter (keys and BVs with New Young Pony Club) for this fun, futuristic and ever so slightly camp collaboration. It’s all getting a bit Philip. K Dick in here.
Not to be confused with the XTC-lite Geography-teach rock of Young Knives, Concrete Knives sliced their way into our consciousness with their album – Be Your Own King – by way of Bella Union in February. Their brand of jaunty, upbeat chanting is surprisingly palatable given how horrible that description sounds on paper. They will be hoping to cement their reputation with an appearance at the forthcoming Great Escape Festival.
He’s a household name in France, but Benjamin Biolay – on his eighth studio album – is set to release only his first record in the UK. Why the belated interest in the British market who can be sure, though appearances from Vanessa Paradis (whose latest record he’s producing) and erstwhile Libertine Carl Barât will certainly help. Vengeance will do wonders domestically,and if you love the sound of a Frenchman growling into a microphone with a lit cigarette then you should get in on the act too.
From the established to the altogether brand new, Christine and the Queens are something of an unknown commodity but what they’ve committed to recorded sound and video thus far is enigmatic and strangely alluring, a mixture of torch songs and understatedly sophisticated dance tracks. Their first EP, ‘NUIT 17 À 52’ is due in June, but you’ll not have to wait until then when there’s an appearance at The Great Escape just around the corner.
Finally, Lou Doillon is probably tired of hearing herself described as French pop royalty, but as the daughter of Jane Birkin and half sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg it’s unavoidable in any introduction. As a successful actress and model, Doillon had no intention of entering the music business, though once coaxed out of merely bedroom humming and strumming for her own amusement, her seductive folk tinged musings (all in English) have caught like wildfire in her homeland and catapulted her to an unexpected best female at the Victoire de la musique awards earlier in the year. The 30-year-old’s contribution to the family business is a weighty one, much to her own relief.