It seems like cruel fate placing France directly after England. Long have our Channel-divided neighbours been the butt of jokes about the quality of their music, and long have they retorted in kind about the quality of British food. But as the quality of my own country's cuisine is constantly ascending into the Michelin-starred heavens, so is the quality of French pop taking a stride forward.
To the untrained ear (i.e., mine), a lot of French music still lies under the formidable shadow of one Serge Gainsbourg. Chances are, you know the man solely from Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus, the sultry beer advert soundtrack with Jane Birkin. But really, M. Gainsbourg is a far more accomplished, eclectic and innovative artist, albeit with some serious Gallic sophistication. Check out Valier for a modern day artist injecting a little SG swing.
Serge Gainsbourg - Initials BB
Serge Gainsbourg - Couleur Café
Valier - Monstre
But what France is really tearing ahead in is electronic music; from techno to ambient, there's some beautiful and interesting music here - Air and Daft Punk are probably the better known, but I really wanted to talk about the artists behind one of my favourite albums of all time, M83's Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts.
This album was one of the first reviews I ever wrote, and I wish I could post it up, because I still think I've rarely captured how I feel about a record better than that. Sadly, it was on my old computer and never got transferred across.
The gist of the piece was this: there are some albums that make most sense when you're staring out a window at a deep blue night sky: think The Cure's Disintegration, maybe My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, maybe even Still Life from Suede's Dog Man Star. Dead Cities... is along these lines. It's one of those embracing, enveloping records that in it's rich, warm sound sucks you in and doesn't let go. From it's first cracked electronic voices to the protracted fadeout of Beauties Can Die, M83 have produced an album which probably goes beyond even their grand ambitions. They didn't really capture the same subtleties on the follow-up, Before The Dawn Heals Us, although that record is not without it's charms -what it lacks in restraint is made up for in bombast. But Dead Cities... is, to date, their magnum opus, their Loveless, their masterpiece.
I had the pleasure of meeting M83 before their Mean Fiddler show in support of !!!, of all people. While the novelty of the LA2's upstairs gallery overlooking the stage was amusing for a while, the main act where, on the whole, dreadful, and we left. They had nothing really to do with M83's washes of sound approach, whereby the not petite room is filled with swathes of keyboard from the banks of 'lectric joannas that Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau are holding onto for dear life, guitars hanging perilously from fragile necks, red lights cutting through the steam and mist.
M83 these days have lost Nicolas, and Anthony's vision is becoming still more grandiose, by the sounds of it. Their show last year at the Electric Ballroom though, was just as fabulous, and the band still have a power behind their sound that few can match.
So, we salute M83's wonderful Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts: a Record Of The Year if ever I heard one.
M83 - America
M83 - On A White Lake, Near A Green Mountain
Motel De Moka has a Montag remix of Teen Angst from the new album; La Blogoteque has a Superpitcher remix of Don't Save Us From The Flames. I hope to post up a B-side I have as well a bit later, but I'm at work, and couldn't post properly last night due to excessive football merriment. Bring on Sweden...
Buy French music/M83/Serge/Valier
Tags: France; World Cup; Serge Gainsbourg; Valier; M83
CIA Factbook: France
PS: See My Old Kentucky Blog and Who Needs Radio for more football-related mp3 fun. Thanks also to Zap of So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away for his help and advice. He also recommends Camille, Un Homme Et Une Femme Project, Chimeres.