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!
Les Sans Culottes "The Ennui And Ecstasy" (2001)
Les Sans Culottes take the American hipster fascination with/adoration of French ye-ye and stand it on its head, giving Gallic rock a giddy, garage-y, kitschy, 'Sixtiesed-out shot in the arm, infusing the style with the energy and abandon that the French themselves seldom seem able to muster. This early album is more of a straight garage-pop album, and more "French" than their later albums, which are more of a linguistic mix'n'match. I dunno, but I thought this album was a lot of fun. Very perky and very toungue-in-cheek, and very enjoyable (although a few tracks drag on a bit....the middle section has a few duds, but the album picks up in the end...) Recommended (though, sadly, it's apparently out of print as well... Zut allors!)
Les Sans Culottes "Faux Realism" (Aeronaut, 2002)
Les Sans Culottes "Live In Paris" (DCN, 2003)
Les Sans Culottes "Fixation Orale" (Aeronaut, 2004)
If the Bay City Rollers had been French instead of Scottish, and fell into the thrall of some dadaist garage rock scene run by Esperanto cultists... Well, they might have sounded a bit like this gleefully tounge-in-cheek "French" rock band from Los Angeles (by way of New York), who giddily skip from rock genre to rock genre as easily and breezily as they slide between languages. Cracking jokes in pidgin French, broken English, and whatever random syllables seem to be laying around at hand, these folks make no sense, but they sure have fun. The crunchier guitar riffs may be a little hard-rocking for your average frog-pop fans, but folks who liked April March's collaborations with The Makers may find kindred spirits here. I haven't seen them live, but I imagine they are a lot of fun.
Les Sans Culottes "Le Weekender" (VibraTone, 2007)
Tres bien! or Je suis fatigue? Here are a bunch more crazed, kooky musical mashups of French ye-ye and various brands of non-Gallic rock. This New York-based novelty band composes songs that draw on the music of many eras -- garage, punk, glam, Motown, indie and new wave -- and throws themselves full-force into irreverent lampoons of French pop, with half-nonsensical lyrics packed with pop culture references galore. This fast-paced album is a bit relentless and even a bit exhausting at times, but taken in small, bite-sized chunks, it can be rewarding and hilarious. I'm sure the band must be a lot of fun live; they'd also sound nice blasting past at light speed in a good freeform radio mix -- or on a home playlist, for all you DIY musicaholics out there. Worth checking out, especially if you haven't heard their earlier albums yet.
Les Sans Culottes "'Pataphysical Graffiti" (Vibratone, 2011)
Les Satellites "Du Grouve Et Des Souris" (1987)
Les Satellites "Riches & Celebres" (Sony-BMG, 1990)
Les Satellites "Pied Orange" (1990)
Les Sequelles "En Tant Pis Si Cela Vous Deplait" (Grenadine, 2000)
Decent -- if unsurprising -- 'Sixtiesed-out garage rock from Montreal, with male and female vocals, lots of reverby guitars and lively dips into 'billy this and 'billy that. They sing in English on a couple of tunes, but mostly it's all glorious Quebecois French. Definitely worth a spin!
Les Sequelles "Les Chansons Cruelles" (Dionysus, 2005)
Sheila "Vol. 1: Les Annees Ye-Ye" (Warner, 1995)
Doubtless a cult favorite in certain French oldies circles, the artist known as "Sheila" was a perky-yet-clumsy pop singer working in a teenybopper mode, much along the lines of '60s contemporaries such as France Gall and the better-known Sylvie Vartan... This disc collects Sheila's early work, as well as later material from the '70s, which was initially an extension of her ye-ye years, and later, an oldies-act nostalgia-trip revival, ala Sha-Na-Na. (The late-vintage, 13-minute-long live medley that closes the album is pretty horrific....) There are some fun tunes on here as well, and though many ye-ye singers were more dynamic or had better voices, Sheila still had her charms. It's the usual brand of American-style girl-group pop (and later, psychedelic rock) grafted onto staid French chanson. Casual observers can find several songs to rock out on, while devotees will be cheered by the abundance on this ample best-of set, and possibly by the following volume as well, which covers her (ulp!) disco years. Certainly worth checking out.
Sheila "Vol. 2: Les Annees Disco" (Warner, 1995)
William Sheller "Tendres: Annees 70" (Universal, 2004)
Bleah. Soft-centered, straight-laced, mellow rock, maybe along the lines of David Gates or Paul Williams, although not as compelling as either of those soft-pop icons. Didn't do much for me. Probably won't do much for you.
Emilie Simon "Emilie Simon" (Universal, 2003)
Emilie Simon "Vegetal" (Universal, 2006)
Emilie Simon "La Marche De L'Empereur" (Universal/Milan, 2006)
Electronica-tinged incidental music for, and other tunes inspired by the film, March Of The Penguins. Artsy, delicate, often precious, though not quite cloying... A real treat for the right audience, particularly folks looking for a mix of Bjork, Kate Bush, maybe a hint of old 4AD bands and whatnot... Issued in Americal under the title, March Of The Empress
Emilie Simon "The Flower Book" (Milan, 2006)
A best-of collection aimed at an American audience... A good overview of her work.
Emilie Simon "L'Olympia" (Barclay, 2007)
A concert album, recorded at the fabled Olympia music hall...
Yves Simon - see artist profile
Sophie "L'Integrale" (Magic, 1999)
This disc gathers together four EPs recorded between 1963-65 by a ye-ye second-stringer known as "Sophie." She must have been outside the cool kids loop, 'cause her arrangements were pretty square compared to the likes of Sylvie Vartan and Johnny Hallyday... I mean, it's okay, but it's not really that rockin'... It has the palpable feel of old-fashioned French orchestral bands trying to approximate rock'n'roll by pumping away as fast and crudely and propulsively as possible, figuring anyone dumb enough to like this greasy kid's stuff isn't going to know the difference anyway. The fuzzed-out acid-rock guitars that France Gall would later pick up weren't around yet; and apparently nobody gave Sophie's bandleaders the memos about surf music or the Beatles. There are a few Goffin-King/Phil Spector girl-group covers in the mix, but after a few tunes, most of these tracks melt together and start to sound the same. Also, she didn't have the world's greatest voice... On the slower songs, when she let her husky tones draw out a bit, she got a bit of a Francoise Hardy thing going on, but on the faster, more manic numbers (most of the disc), she starts to sound like she's braying tunelessly. As far as French rock kitsch goes, this is okay, but I wasn't too wowed by it. Almost, but not quite.
Alain Souchon - see artist profile
Stella "Les EPs Des Sixties..." (Magic, 1997)
A fab two-disc set of this ye-ye Mod cutie. Her earliest stuff, on Disc One, is not so distinctive; fairly plain, fairly cute, standard-issue ye-ye from the early and mid-'60s. What makes this collection special, though, are the rock and roll tracks on Disc Two, many of which feature cool session work by future Led Zepper, Jimmy Page. His fuzzed-out guitar and bass figure prominently on many of these tracks, which also have an innately playful exuberance. In short, the girl rocked. (PS -- Later on, Stella would marry the drummer of France's most famous prog rock band, Magma, further cementing herself into the French pop firmament.)
Stella "L'Integrale Sixties" (Magic, 2005)
I think this disc has a pretty hefty overlap with the EPs Des Sixties collection listed above...
Les Surfs "Tendres Annees 60" (Universal, 2004)
As French-language pop cover bands go, Les Surfs were hard to beat. Interestingly enough, they weren't actually from France, but rather were a group of teenage expatriates from Madagscar, a six-member vocal band fronted by Moniyka Rabaraona, a female vocalist of surpassing emotional power, backed by her four brothers and sister Nicole. Their sound was a fun, canny mix of doo-wop and Brill Building, girl-group pop, with classy string arrangements such as you might hear on a Ben E. King or Platters album. This collection is a fine introduction to their work, gathering fifteen songs, including covers of songs like "Be My Baby," "I Only Want To Be With You" and "The Shoop Shoop Song." I wished they'd mined a little deeper and avoided obvious novelty numbers like "Hang On Sloopy" and "Scandal In The Family," but this still is certainly enough to whet your whistle and inspire you to track down more of their stuff... Such as the more comprehensive collections below, on the Magic label. It's also pretty great all by itself... recommended!
Les Surfs "Volume 1" (Magic, 2006)
Les Surfs "Volume 2:" (Magic, 2006)
Les Surfs "Volume 3: Scandale Dans La Familie" (Magic, 2006)
Les Surfs "Volume 4" (Magic, 2009)
Les Surfs "A L'Olympia" (Magic, 2005)
Les Surfs "Singles Collection" (2002)
French Music Index
French Chanson & Musette