I hardly speak a lick of French (despite three years of it in High School) but in the past few years I've really taken to French language pop, be it the '60s classics or the new wave. Even hip hop. I say if the music is good enough, it doesn't matter if I can't understand what they're actually saying. I still don't know what Michael Stipe, Mark E Smith or Elizabeth Frazer were singing in the '80s. Anyway, I listened to a lot of Francophone artists this year. Here's nine I especially liked.
1. Automelodi – Automelodi [Wierd] | BUY
Great synthpop from Montreal's Xavier Paradis who now (I think) lives in Brooklyn. This album was my #9 album of the year so there's no way it can't top the list here. Big giant hooks stick with you, no matter what language he sings in.
MP3: Automelodi – Rayons de Rien
2 Cours Lapin - S/T [Fake Diamond] | BUY
Four Danish film composers make lush, gorgeous fake French music. Like the soundtrack to some fashionable noir spy movie, trekking around exotic locales, ski chases, sexy intrigue. This probably shoulda made my real Best of 2010 list too.
3. Jesuslesfilles – Une Belle Table [Self-Released] | BUY
These Montrealers make a racket somewhere between the Pixies and early Dandy Warhols. Garagey, but not the blown-out levels kind, and the songs are very, very catchy. Also, the whole record is a free ("name your price") download from their bandcamp page.
4. The Limiñanas – S/T [Trouble in Mind] | BUY
Evoking swinging Parisian scene of the mid-'60s (Gainsbourg, Dutronc, Ye-Ye, et al), The Limiñanas dance their way through 12 hits of groovy garage: fuzz leads, killer basslines, combo organ, smoky vocals. Perfect for your next Love-In.
5. Les Surveillantes – La Racine Carrée du Coeur | BUY
Super-nerdy, very charming folk from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Songs about girls, apathy and science. The album's title track ("The Square Root of the Heart") is kind of about all three. Included lyric sheet has English translations as well.
6. Katerine – Phillipe Katerine [Barclay] BUY
Back in the mid '90s, Katerine used to make effortlessly enjoyable francopop but ever since 1999's Les Créatures, he's become something of an eccentric. Pretty much a full-on weirdo at this point actually. In an awesome way, of course. Philippe Katerine and brings together just about every phase of his career into one tour-de-force album featuring his parents on the cover.
7. Radio Radio – Belmundo Regal [Bonsound] | BUY
I don't listen to much American hip hop, but I must admit I like it better en Francais. Radio Radio technically drop science in Chiac, a weird Acadian French dialect spoken (and understood) only in the Moncton region of New Brunswick. This is like cosmopolitan Frenchy yacht rock rap. No gold chains, just ascots.
8. Frank (Just Frank) – The Brutal Wave [Weird] | BUY
From France but Frank (Just Frank) sings in English about half the time. Like most stuff on Weird, it's indebted to the '80s. You can hear vintage French synth wavers like Ruth or Casino Music, as well as the influence of R.E.M. and the Sound. A little too goth at times ("KILL KILL KILL" goes the chorus of "Crisis") but it always gets the mood just right. Good stuff for your next angular danceparty.
9. Laetitia Sadier – The Trip [Drag City] | BUY
Nobody expected former Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier to go alt-country on her solo debut. So good thing she hasn't. While it doesn't sound exactly like her old band, you're also not gonna be shocked with what you get. She does more than fine on her own. Below is maybe my favorite track, a cover of French new wave band Les Rita Mitsouko's "Un Soir, Un Chien" which you may remember from Godard's Soigne Ta Droite!