Quick List: A French Top Five

So as the news arrives that France has decided not to vote in a fascist president* (even if 11 million of them did vote for one –  what the fuck mes amies?) I thought that I’d revisit the Top Five / Out of Europe format with a quick list of those songs – a sort of “this is what we’re saying goodbye to” from those countries that will remain part of the EU long after our pathetically ego-driven and pig-ignorant leader has ripped us from it.

Already covered: Sweden

France is, of course, our closest neighbour. Living down in Kent I’ve always been aware of that proximity and, when I worked down by the coast I’d see it on a daily basis, the rising of the North’s cliffs and coast on the horizon, often pulling up for lunch, looking at it across the Channel and wondering about the culture that dwelt over such a small stretch of water and just how close, within reach exploring it was. It was my first taste of wanderlust.

As it would happen, I ended up spending a large amount of time in France and Paris a few years later as my wife was still living there for the first year or so of our relationship. As such, while you end up with mixed feelings about any country / place you spend a lot of time in, I hold many a fond memory for the place and most of these songs are tied up in that.

So…. in no particular order and trying to cover as good a spread of genres as possible….

Noir Désir – Lost

Yeah…. so; this kind of enters into the whole separation of art from artist and whether you a) can and b) is the art more important than the artist. Given that everything Noir Désir recorded preceded Bertrand Cantat’s violent and fatal assault of his girlfriend** it should be the case that one of France’s biggest rock band’s work remains free to stand alone but it’s a heavy shadow that’s been cast over it. Still, as I’ve said before – I wasn’t aware of this when I got into the band and I still enjoy the music as it reminds of me of my time there, having discovered them while sat in traffic in Paris and listening to the radio. This one comes from their final album des Visages des Figures, a more brooding affair than previous efforts but a successful one.

MC Solaar  – Nouveau western

A genius recasting of Serge Gainsbourg et Brigitte Bardot’s 1968 classic French song ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ – that song itself reportedly based on a poem Bonnie Parker had written moments before she and Clyde Barrow were gunned down. MC Solaar – or Claude M’Barali to give him his full name – was one of the first to get rap through to the mainstream in France. ‘Nouvaeu Western’ tackles racism and colonialism, is catchy as hell and features an absolutely brilliant video.

M83 – Kim & Jessie | Air – All I Need

If we’re talking French electronic music (and not discussing Jean-Michel Jarre) there’s got be three bands that will come up: Daft Punk, Air and M83. I like a bit of Daft Punk but couldn’t really say I listen to any of it enough to warrant a place for it here. M83’s ‘Kim & Jessie’ had me hooked from the opening with those monumental electric drum hits. There’s something so surging, nostalgic and warm about this song that’s irrefutably good. Air’s ‘All I Need’ from their first album Moon Safari (nearly 20 years old ffs) has a similar effect on me, just bliss.

Yann Tiersen – “J’y suis jamais allé”

Man I could probably fill another post with rambling about French films and their soundtracks and may well do at a later date when you know… procrastination allows.  I’d have to talk about Eric Serra’s soundtrack work and give off gas about Subway or how addictive I find from Enae Volare from Les Visiteurs and….  Let’s get this list finished first though.  Probably the most well known soundtrack and most obviously ‘French’ of the lot though is this piece from the mighty Yann Tiersen’s second album Rue des cascades as it would go on to feature in his soundtrack for Amelie five years later, catapulting it and Tiersen to a much greater audience. I still love it though, cliché as it may be.

This is, of course a quick list – ie; those that came to me first. If I sat down and gave it more thought then a) this would never get finished and posted and b) I would likely swap a few but then….

Honourable mentions:

Yael Naim – Paris

Alain Bashung – J’écume

Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5:55

Eric Serra – Guns and People

*I’m trying (clearly not completely succeeding) to avoid politics on this blog but I will say that while I celebrate any victory over far-right, holocaust-denying fascism I don’t believe Macron is a strong result either and the thing with his wife….. forget about it.

**Cantat was sentenced to 8 years in prison for Involuntary Manslaughter and was released on parole having served 4. During his time in prison his house was burnt down. After his release – much protested by the band made a brief attempt at returning but the guitarist called it quits citing  “emotional, human and musical differences” with Cantant and the band announced it was done. Cantant has continued in music though this remains a controversial discussion point in the musical press and community.

Quick List: A Swedish Top Five

While the stupidity of June 23rd and the fumbling-in-the-dark it lead to continues to dominate the news  (unless America votes in a racist, misogynistic Oompa Loompa today) I thought I’d revisit my initial “Out of Europe” list… I thought I’d go for a region, in this instance Scandanavia, but quickly found I’d come up with five from the same country.

So, in the same “this is what we’re saying goodbye to” thought, here’s a Top Five From Sweden (in no particular order, of course, and without a Waterloo in sight*):

Kristofer Åström – How Can You Live With Yourself

There’s just something so amusing and great about the juxtaposition between those gentle strums and lyrics like “I hope you’ll burn in hell”.

Refused – New Noise

I don’t think I ever was or ever will be – especially as my clock has just clicked over another year closer to 40 and I merge quietly into listening to ‘Dad rock’ – to talk about Refused or profess fandom in the same way I’m probably unlikely to be considered serious when I talk about At The Drive In’s Relationship of Command (“Hello, mother leopard. I have your cub”). I will say, though, that I love and loved The Shape of Punk To Come in all it’s screaming, emphatic and brutal force.

Shout Out Louds – Oh Sweetheart

I cannot recall how I found this band back in the mid 2000’s. Their first album Howl Howl Gaff Gaff is chock full of cracking, upbeat and well crafted tunes like this and The Comeback. I can’t say I’ve heard a great deal since though, so perhaps it’s time to head to Spotify….

Junip – Line Of Fire

Having found solo success on his own with his bare, acoustic tracks and covers (including Heartbeats) José González did the sensible thing and got the band – Junip – back together again. I first found them on the The Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack and then their 2013 self-titled.

Last Days of April – The Thunder & The Storm

I could have put anything from Last Days of April here, they remain my favourite European export and I’d be hard-pushed to find a dud in their catalogue. So I went with something form their latest – last year’s Sea of Clouds – if only for the moment halfway through when the pedal-steel and guitar takes over and just keep going.  For a quick LDOA bracer:

It’s On Everything
I Wish That You Would Mean A Lot Less To Me
Forget About It
Who’s On The Phone (because there’s no way of linking to Lily)
Two Hands And Ten Fingers

There’s some honourable mentions for this one (Sweden has sent some wonderful music out into the world) including that one-hit-wonder Glorious by Andreas Johnson, The Knife – purveyors of the original Heartbeats, and Lykke Li’s wonderful Melodies & Desires.

 

*no matter how many people claim there’s something great in ABBA I cannot stomach them, the DJ at my wedding was even banned from playing them no matter who made a request (I have a list of those that did, too).

Starting…

…somewhere. But where? First posts are tricky so lets start at the end. The end of the alphabet – with Z. Or the two Z’s I’m stuck on at the moment.

The first is Z by My Morning Jacket.

My_Morning_Jacket_-_ZThis is one of those albums that sits up high in my list of bests. It wasn’t the first MMJ album I owned (that was It Still Moves) but it’s arguably a highpoint in their catalog. It’s one of those rare albums where tracks don’t get skipped – with the possible exception of Into The Woods depending on mood – and has everything that makes them great distilled into a little over three quarters of an hour. It’s got some scorching guitar-driven rock tracks (while there’s no One Big Holiday there is Anytime), the jam outs and nods to funk and even delicacy (and while It Beats 4 U isn’t quite as delicate as the later Librarian or earlier Golden it’s still tender) all soaked in just the right amount of reverb and remaining the right side of countrified.

There’s also a very strong likelihood that I’ll be seeing them this summer so it’s going to be playing a lot more.

It’s out there on the Mediafire’s of the world but it’s just as readily available at stupidly low prices as it’s already close to 7 years old.

The other Z is for Zdob şi Zdub. They’re a Moldovan band who I’d never heard of before I saw a short, 20 minute Romanian film with my wife and this happened to play over the credits. Since then I can’t get it out of my head but why would I, it’s fun, upbeat and beats the arse off any of the cack on The Voice etc and I love a bit of forgein music