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!
Jean-Claude Vannier "L'Enfant Assasin Des Mouches" (Finder's Keepers, 1972/2005)
A "collector's item classic" from 1972 that is alternately brilliant and completely pretentious and irritating. The lowdown on this one is that after composer Jean-Claude Vannier, a protege of Serge Gainsbourg, knocked this out as a soundtrack disc, it was issued in minute quantities on a microscopic indie label, garnered scant attention in its day (there was a lot of groovy music coming out of France at the time) and inexorably gained Holy Grail status for French-pop crate diggers. Vannier attained notoriety as the arranger for Gainsbourg's lavishly orchestrated "L'Histoire De Melody Nelson," and here he plies himself to an irony-drenched all-instrumental setting that blends searing acid-funk, pop kitsch, French chanson, as well as avant-classical and "concrete music" tricks such as found-sound samples and industrial noises (mainly stuff that sounds like dentist's drills...) along with a flowing, Beatles-y melodicism. Some tracks are just plain annoying, others have a textual depth that is both gorgeous and surprising. Some of the weirder, tight-formation changes in meter mirror the poppier end of American jazz-fusion, as well as the chaotic glory of Arthur Brown's band, Kingdom Come. You can see why hipsters across the world have latched onto it as a sacred icon... Parts of it I like a lot, but in general, this isn't a record I would sit down and listen to recreationally from beginning to end. Here, it is reissued with glorious sound quality, informative liner notes and glowing testimonials from indie luminaries such as Jarvis Cocker, Tim Gane and Jim O'Rourke... Definitely worth checking out!
Jean-Claude Vannier "L'Orchestre D'Enfants" (Sounds, 2007)
Sylvie Vartan - see artist profile
Les Vautours "L'Integrale" (Magic, 2006)
Surfy teen tunes and twist music with an Eddie Cochran-meets-the-Beatles vibe. Kitschy, but fun. This B-list band is worth checking out if you're looking for some Frenchified teenybopper rock... Nice historical material, though hardly earth-shattering in and of itself.
Les Vautours "Rockocarbure" (Local, 2006)
Venus "The Red Room" (Tot Ou Tard, 2006)
They sing mopey songs in English, which, since they're a French band, isn't as much fun (for me) as if they had sung their mopey songs in French. Still, some gentle arrangements that make for nice listening, particularly on the pastoral "Underwater."
Constance Verluca "Adieu Pony" (Warner-France, 2007)
Rocky Volcano "Twistin' The Rock" (Universal, 2002)
Rocky Volcano "Rocky Volcano" (Universal, 2003)
Peter Von Poehl "Going To Where The Tea Trees Are" (Tot Ou Tard/Bella Union, 2006)
Although he's actually Swedish, Euro-twee crooner Peter Von Poehl can be considered an honorary member of the French indie scene -- his collaborations with the equally-dreamy novelist-songwriter Vincent Delerm are noteworthy, as is this, his first solo record. This English-language album has several songs that will burrow into your brain and echo in your mind for weeks on end. It's the kind of music that you can't take off the stereo and need to absorb nonstop until you burn it out of your system. Comparisons to Nick Drake or Donovan, while cliched with others, are apt for Von Poehl. The whispery vocals, orchestral-pop-with-a-beat and hallucinogenic lyrics of the title track, as well as the mystical, visionary "Story Of The Impossible" -- it's also worth poking around online for some of his whimsical videos. One of my faves from 2007!
Peter Von Poehl "May Day" (Warner, 2009)
Sadly, this follow-up album didn't captivate me the same way as his first... Oh, well. Can't win 'em all.
French Music Index
French Chanson & Musette