Welcome to my French pop and rock section... Here are a few recommendations to albums I've enjoyed that I think you might like as well, ranging from 1960s ye-ye to a few more contemporary albums from France's blossoming indie and electronica scenes. There is also a separate section for older musical styles, such as chanson and musette, if you like the old stuff, too!
Marie Laforet "Tendres: Annees 60" (Universal, 2004)
Meh. Color me unimpressed. I mean, yeah, I know she's had a long, many-storied career, but this set of fluffy, chirpy pop from the mid-1960s is pretty lightweight... Didn't make much impression on me, and seems of limited camp value. I just didn't have much fun listening to it, and felt that many of the performances were bland and insincere. Maybe you just had to be there, or maybe it makes better sense seen in the context of her full career. I doubt I'll ever really figure it out.
Bastien Lallemant "Les Premiers Instants" (Tot Ou Tard, 2003)
(Produced by Bastien Lallemant & Dominique Ledudal)
A strummy, all-acoustic folkie album that is pleasant but didn't really grab me. This only hints at his indie side, sticking more to bare-bones acoustic guitar accompaniment, and it's all about his lyrics, which, I assume, are quite clever. Not quite as much fun as his stuff with a band backing him.
Bastien Lallemant "Les Erotiques" (Tot Ou Tard, 2005)
(Produced by Albin de la Simon)
Finally tracked this one down, and it's pretty fun. An eclectic, twee pop romp from French indie artist Bastien Lallemant, with help from a few familiar names: producer Albin de la Simon also plays piano and organ throughout, Emily Loizeau sings on several tracks, and Pascal Parisot puts in an appearance as well. Fun, creative material, sometimes elegant, sometimes daft. If you like Mathieu Boogaerts, you might dig this, too!
Bastien Lallemant "Cowboy" (2007)
Bastien Lallemant "Le Verger" (L'Autre Distribution, 2010)
Jena Lee "Vous Remercier" (Mercury-France, 2009)
Valerie Lemercier "Chante" (March, 1997)
(Produced by Bertrand Burgulat)
Cute, but glib. To my way of thinking, this retrofest is a bit too glib and self-congratulatory... 'Sixties easy listening kitsch is referenced to a fare-thee-well, as producer Bertrand Burgulat meticulously recreates riff after riff, and actress-cum-vocalist Lemercier dutifully sings as flatly and in as blase a manner as possible. I suppose as a technical exercise this is quite impressive, but as a work or art -- or even a work of play -- this doesn't offer much in the way of emotional immediacy or depth. It's just a protracted in-joke, a too-cute, too-coy going-through-the-motions pop pastiche that wears thin pretty quickly. Then again, maybe my uptight, Anglo-Saxon, stick-up-the-butt humorlessness is ill-suited to appreciate something so frothy and unapologetically just-for-fun. Anyway, I remember feeling nonplussed when my pals at my college radio station went ga-ga over this disc when it first came out, and I'm still not that into it, returning to the record nearly a decade later. Results may vary.
Valerie Leulliot "Caldeira" (Le Village Vert, 2007)
A warm, mellow solo album from the lead singer of Autour de Lucie, who drapes herself here in a gauzy, acoustic reverie... If, perhaps, you thought Autour de Lucie had gone a bit overboard with the pop production on their last few albums, you'll find welcome relief in this unabashedly unchallenging, dreamy, laid-back set. All the songs sound the same - whispery, reserved, come-hither vocals and light orchestrations around a decidedly sparse acoustic background. It's lovely though. If you like how it sounds on paper, you'll love how it sounds in your ears.
Lhasa "La Llorona" (Tot Ou Tard, 1997)
Odd, arty stuff from Lhasa De Sela, a French Canadian gal with a Mexican father... Lhasa mixes American folk, blues, Latin American themes, French chanson and other disparate elements to craft an odd, haunting style... Folks who like Jolie Holland's genre-warping style will find a kindred spirit here... Very distinctive and arresting. (Even if the album art is completely butt-ugly...)
Lhasa "The Living Road" (Tot Ou Tard, 2003)
Lio "Lio (Premier Album)" (Warner, 1980)
Lio "Suite Sixtine" (Warner, 1981)
Lio "Amour Toujours" (Warner, 1982)
(Produced by Alain Chamfort)
Lio "Pop Model" (Polydor, 1985)
Lio "Can Can" (Polydor, 1988)
Lio "Des Fleurs Pour Un Cameleon" (Polydor, 1990)
Lio "Wandatta" (Warner, 1991)
Lio "Je Suis Comma Ca" (Ades, 2000)
An album featuring the poems of Jacques Prevert...
Lio "Coeur De Rubis" (WEA, 2003)
A concert album featuring her Jacques Prevert compositions...
Lio "Dites Au Prince Charmant" (Recall, 2006)
Lio "Je Garde Quelques Images Pour Mes V" (2008)
A 2-CD set...
Lio "Les Pop Songs" (ZE, 2006)
Lio "Les Ballades" (ZE, 2006)
A best-of set...
Lio "Hit Collection" (2008)
Les Lionceaux "Twistin' The Rock" (Universal, 2002)
Les Lionceaux "En Direct Au Bilboquet" (Mercury)
The Little Rabbits "Dans Les Faux Puits Rouge Et Gris" (Barclay, 1991)
The Little Rabbits "Dedalus" (Virgin, 1993)
The Little Rabbits "Grand Public" (Barclay, 1995)
The Little Rabbits "Yeah!" (Barclay, 1999) remixes
A set of remixes...
The Little Rabbits "La Grande Musique" (Barclay, 2002)
The Little Rabbits "Radio" (Barclay, 2003)
The Little Rabbits/Vanesse Paradis "Atomic Circus (Soundtrack)" (Barclay, 2005)
Loane "Jamais Seule" (Virgin-France, 2008)
(Produced by Fabrice Dumont & Frederic Fortuny)
The French indie scene just keeps getting better and better... Singer Loane Rathier has a distinctive vibe, a bit rougher than your typical French alt/pop stuff, with hints of folk and blues and American-style lo-fi rock, all of which accentuates the plaintive beauty in her voice. This is a very pleasant, listenable record, which has stood up to many rotations in the CD player, thought there's some grit in there as well... If you're looking for some hip, new stuff from France, this one is definitely recommended.
Emily Loizeau "L'Autre Bout Du Monde" (Fargo, 2007)
Emily Loizeau "L'Autre Bout Du Monde" (Special Edition) (Fargo, 2007)
Emily Loizeau "EP Bonus" (Fargo, 2008)
Lo'Jo "Fils De Zamal" (1993)
Lo'Jo "Mojo Radio" (World Village, 1998)
Lo'Jo "Boheme De Cristal" (World Village, 2000)
Lo'Jo "Au Cabaret Sauvage" (World Village, 2002)
Lo'Jo "Ce Soir La..." (World Village, 2004)
Fans of this uber-electic French world-band will be thrilled by this live concert album... All their elements come together -- the acoustic musette, the dark cabaret jazz, moody electronica and the more manic rock influences... It's a bit too serious and self-serious for me, but very accomplished in its way, and an excellent representation of what this band does... Worth checking out if you're Lo'Jo curious; a must-have if you're a fan.
Lo'Jo "Bazar Savant" (2006)
Lo'Jo "Tu Connais Lo'Jo?" (AZ, 2007)
The Lolitas "Fusee D'Amour" (New Rose, 1989)
(Produced by Alex Chilton)
Long Chris & Les Daltons "Twistin' The Rock" (Universal, 2002)
Long Chris & Les Daltons "Tendres Annees 60" (Universal, 2006)
Louise Attaque "Louise Attaque" (Sony/Atmospheriques, 1997)
Apparently, French indie rockers are not immune from the irritating trend in which all-male bands give themselves names which make it sound as though they are female artists, and drape their albums in nondescript, photo-less artwork which contribute to the misdirection. So... that's one strike against these guys, although far less disappointing is the music itself. This is a lively, likeable set of clattersome, rambunctious acoustic rock -- sort of a French version of Camper Van Beethoven, with a few unexpected passages of long, proclamatory, half-spoken monologues... Honestly, I wasn't really that moved by these guys, but I recognize their energy and good humor: apparently so did the French record-buying public, as this debut record sold over two million copies (!), which is a pretty impressive sales figure for such a small, backwater country. So, why listen to me? I'm sure after a few more listens, I'll be singing their praise as well...
Louise Attaque "Comme On A Dit" (Sony/Atmospheriques, 2000)
Louise Attaque "A Plus Tard Crocodile" (Musicor/Atmospheriques, 2005)
Luke "La Vie Presque" (RCA, 2001)
Languid, electronica-tinged alt-rock, rather similar to Autour De Lucie's later albums, but with male vocals. It's okay, pretty at times, easy on the ears, although it sounds a little drab and prefab after a while.
Luke "La Tete En Arriere" (RCA, 2004)
A transitional album that finds the band moving into some fairly tedious alt-rock/postpunk/punk. It just sounds too studied and contrived, like the band felt it had to move into a more "punk" direction, and did. Some of the softer songs are nice, though, particularly "L'Espece Humaine" and "Seveso." The more aggro rock numbers fall flat, though. Maybe if they're recorded this twenty years earlier (and been Ted Destroyer) it would have been more impressive. As it is, this seems like an exercise in corporate marketing, rather than an album you'd really want to crank up loud.
Luke "Les Enfants De Saturne" (RCA, 2007)
Well, it seems like they got where they were going... Here's some loud, slashing, impassioned punk, with clear echoes of early Wire. The intensity is there, the wall of noise as well. Seems pretty believable, if you're into it.
French Music Index
French Chanson & Musette