You’ve no doubt listened to Serge Gainsbourg – surely France’s best known and loved musician if not by the French then definitely by the rest of the world. However since moving to France I’ve wanted to get beyond the familiar tunes. To stretch the musical repertoire out beyond Serge, Daft Punk, Air and Phoenix.
My knowledge of French music is strictly in two camps. Old classics such as Serge and tunes going further back from Edith Piaf and the like. In the second category there’s electronic music of which Daft Punk was the first to pique my interest when their killer track Da Funk was released in 1995. I still remember hearing this way back when I lived in Sydney. It sounded fresh and exciting. Who knew they’d have such a big comeback?
What else is there though? And is it any good?
Here’s a list of 15 tracks you need to get your ears on – some are new and some are not. No matter. But I’ve avoided the usual suspects to broaden the musical outlook.
Voilà. Enjoy the Spotify playlist.
L’Amour (Part 1) : Arthur H , Nicolas Repac, Lou Doillon
This is a spoken word track with Lou Doillon (more on her later), Arthur H and Nicolas Repac from the album L’Or D’Eros. It has an undercurrent of laid back cool. This is the sort of song that goes down well at a dinner party. It is rather reminiscent of Serge Gainsbourg it has to be said.
Le Baron Rouge : L’Impératrice
A silky smooth cut with funky beats.
Djon Maya Maï : Synapson featuring Victor Démé
Chilled out African music with the vocals of Burkina Faso musician Victor Démé.
Papaoutai : Stromae
Well Stromae is Belgian but he sings in French so I’ve stretched my criteria. His hip hop / electronic style is really popular on the radio here, especially with the release of his album racine carrée. My son’s class sing this at school so it’s one of those tracks that has become part of the cultural landscape. Lorde has included a reworked version of his track Merci, entitled Meltdown on the Hunger Games Mockingjay soundtrack.
Crush : Tahiti 80
In a similar vein to Phoenix but slightly more upbeat. Smooth pop.
Stereo (IV Radio Edit) : Elephanz
Bouncy indie pop / rock duo from Nantes. Catchy tune.
A bouche que veux-tu : Brigitte
Brigitte Bardot is vividly brought to mind when I hear this girly indie folk music and this is not a coincidence one thinks. Retro Chansons. Again a perfect addition for a dinner party playlist.
Supernature : Beth Ditto and the Shoes
Cerrone‘s classic sci-fi track reworked with added growl.
Changes : Faul & Wad Ad and Pnau
This French DJ production duo were inspired by the Pnau track ‘Baby’ to create this catchy singalong track. Brilliant.
Ce Jeu Tepr Remix : Yelle
An oldie but a goodie and infectiously dreamy. Good to put on when you need something uplifting in your life.
LWATP along with Robin Schulz created one of the big hits of the year – Prayer in C. With this track their sound is a little more brooding. Listen to it when you’re having one of those introspective moments.
ICU : Lou Doillon
Lou Doillon released her award winning album ‘Places’ in 2012. She is very well known in France. Her mother is Jane Birkin which helps and her father is film director Jacques Doillon. But we’re not done there – her half sister is Charlotte Gainsbourg (daughter of Serge Gainsbourg). We’re talking French rock star family here. She does have the goods though and her music is straightforward but poignant. Personally I think she does a better job on the music front than her half sister but that is just my opinion. I can just picture the rawness of this song in a smoky bar with androgynous Lou singing from a bar stool.
Joe Le Taxi : Vanessa Paradis
Classic French track released in 1987 when Vanessa was only 14 years old. Her breathy little girl vocals made it a huge hit in France. You may know her as Johnny Depp‘s ex but in France she is a household name as a musician and actress. She has also been the face for Chanel’s Coco perfume, most memorably in a Jean Paul Goude ad styled as a bird in a cage.
Le Long de la Rivière Tendre : Sébastian Tellier
One of my favourite tracks – a dreamy electronic landscape electronic with no vocals. Just lie back and enjoy.
Soon My Friend : M83
Check out this cinematic number. It wasn’t released as a single but it’s one of my favourites from the album ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’. Also try Midnight City, Reunion and Steve McQueen from the same album.