writing, a mixture of pop and jazz, orchestration liberated
from commercialism, this is the recipe for the revival of French
song. A new generation of artists has emerged and their musical
arrangements do not set out to disappoint a demanding audience.
permanent Spring -- this is the impression given by the French
song and rock scene over the last few seasons. After several
decades of unobtrusive flowerings, we are now witnessing an
unending burgeoning of artists, for the most part singer-songwriters,
who all share a taste for complete mastery of their subject,
from the slightest verb to the smallest nuance of sound. We
will linger here over a few of these erudite exponents of their
craft who have contributed, individually and without clannishness
or confining themselves to any particular generation, to giving
French music a facelift and strengthening its foundations.
among them, Silvain Vanot is the "oldest" on the circuit.
Ten years ago, this former literature teacher overturned the
established scene with a first record that mixed a Jansenist
and gutsy rock, often compared to Neil Young's music, and words
of a very high literary standard. After a few other records
more or less in the same vein, in 2002 Vanot allowed his instincts
for song to come out in a more generous and calmer album, Il
fait soleil [It's sunny], hailed as a major success. In it he
plays twofold tribute to two endearing and little known "ancestors"
(the great Jean-Roger Caussimon and the Reunion troubadour,
Alain Peters) and demonstrates the now unlimited interests of
artists of his generation.
In the same
spirit, Benjamin Biolay and Keren Ann will both remain forever
linked to the triumphant return of octogenarian Henri Salvador,
for whom they have composed five songs, including Jardin d'biver
[Winter Garden]. Besides this, Benjamin and Keren Ann have released
two albums each in three years, establishing an easily recognisable
style with ultra-sophisticated writing, folk-rock colours and
voluptuous string orchestrations, catchy melodies and an elliptical
world. For his talents as an eclectic arranger and his Pygmalion
charisma, he has already been compared to Serge Gainsbourg,
while people sometimes see in her the new Francoise Hardy.
role models and parent figures, Gainsbourg and Hardy continue
to generate disciples. So it is hard not to see the shadow of
the slender figure of "Miss Francoise" behind Carla
Bruni's light songs. As for the great Serge, there would not
be sufficient space on this page to list his professed offspring,
among them Miossec, Bertrand Burgalat, Benabar, Julien Baer,
Ignatus, Marc Gauvin and Pascal Parisot.
On top of the "Gainsbourien" podium, we would put
Katerine without a second's hesitation. Over the last decade
the thirty-year-old Katerine has released the most fantastic
records, undoubtedly the best written and arranged in the whole
of French pop. At first classified as a minimalist, he subsequently
showed that he was, on the contrary, a man of great works, for
himself or for his performers (often female, from Helena Noguera
to Anna Karina). For the last two albums, the most recent with
the title Huitieme Ciel [Eighth Heaven] Katerine makes the surrealist
fragments of his poetry pirouette over music with strains of
eclectic musical landscape
hastily labelled a trendy minimalist in his early days, when
in the mid-nineties he released his first record under the title
Super, Mathieu Boogaerts has since established himself as a
kind of chronicler of frivolity and the feeling of alienation.
The proof is in his splendid third album, released in 2002,
called 2000! Spiritual son of Dutchman Dick Annegarn (with whom
he shared the stage for several months as part of an itinerant
twosome), Boogaerts also has close artistic connections with
the French singer Mathieu Chedid, alias M, his childhood friend.
is not the daughter of writer and musician Yves Simon. But her
father, a sound engineer, has, since her childhood, passed on
a taste for playing with sound, for the kind of sorcery that
takes over when making a record. For her first album, which
she released at the age of twenty-four, Emilie shut her self
away for months in a studio set up at home, putting the finishing
touches to her feverish music nourished as much by the frilly
pop of Kate Bush as by the most radical electronics of English
the opposite side of this spectrum, and proof of the diversity
and depth of the current French song scene, we find the award-winner
of the year, Vincent Delerm, whose amazing first album has been
the surprise success of recent months. Son of the writer Philippe
Delerm, known for his handling of detail and his gift for making
the insignificant spectacular, Delerm Junior has picked up the
family torch by telling amusing little stories which mix self-fiction
and real people. The result is like an X-ray of the world of
"bourgeois-bohemians", or "bobos", by one
of their own.
was first published in LABEL FRANCE