The New French Touch: Six Groups You Should Be Listening To

With the returns of Phoenix and Daft Punk, there’s no doubt that French music is finding a more prominent place in 2013. Sure, those two groups aren’t Versailles’s brightest sons for nothing, and they’ve earned all of their international accolades. But why should they get to have all of the fun? Here are six other coups de coeur that deserve a shot at the spotlight.

 

 

Juveniles

True to their name, youth is at Juveniles’ core. The electro-pop duo started getting attention with ”We Are Young,” which may be the only time quarter life crises have seemed sophisticated. “Through The Night” recalls the carpe noctem romanticism of Cut Copy’s “Hearts On Fire,” while “Fantasy” is a nastier disco stomp. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that every song feels like a hit. Their sound is slinky but subtle in its come-ons, so don’t be surprised when you’ve been seduced. Juveniles’ self-titled EP is out now, with a debut album produced by Yuksek (next) on the way.
Essential track: “Through The Night”
RIYL: Cut Copy, Bear In Heaven, The Rapture

 

 

Yuksek

Between producing, DJing, and singing/songwriting, it seems like there’s nothing Yuksek can’t do. The dance-pop artist born Pierre-Alexandre Busson also has a new title: record label owner. A longtime cornerstone of the French scene, he’s now spreading the love with Partyfine, which saw its first release on May 13. Partyfine EP #1 features Busson collaborating with Juveniles (previous) and Oh Land. His work is just as sharp and stylish when he’s on his own–check out any song on 2011’s Living On The Edge Of Time and it will become even clearer that he’s no slacker. Look out for Busson’s DJ sets in NYC at the end of June.
Essential track: “Always On The Run”
RIYL: Phoenix, Foals, Blood Orange  

 

The Aikiu

This Parisian pop-rock quartet got plenty of attention last year for the “Pieces Of Gold” video, which cheekily made vintage porn SFW with footage of the band performing. The song itself is just as memorable, an ode to hopeless romanticism that sounds like looking at the sun. Led by namesake Alex Aikiu, the group combines heartfelt lyrics with breezy melodies to instantly likable effect. They’ll be releasing debut LP Ghost Youth this month, and their new wave-influenced vibes are sure to remain a favorite all summer long–just wait til you hear “Win,” featuring JD Samson of Le Tigre fame. The Pieces Of Gold EP is out now.
Essential track: “Pieces Of Gold”
RIYL: Hot Fuss-era Killers, Diamond Rings, Miike Snow  

 

Owlle

With her eclectic style and an eye-catching music video directed by Emily Kai Bock, Owlle might look like Grimes’s chic continental counterpart on paper. Sonically, she’s worlds apart, putting her enchanting voice at the forefront of her sound. Backed by shimmering productions, the few songs the omnichord-wielding parisienne has released so far lean toward the anthemic. “Ticky Ticky” is tears-on-the-dancefloor perfection, while “Disorder” balances a tightly-controlled melody with haunting vocals. No wonder Owlle was also tapped to remix Depeche Mode’s “Heaven” earlier this year. The Ticky Ticky EP is out now, along with an EP of remixes. 
Essential track: “Ticky Ticky”
RIYL: Bat For Lashes, Chairlift  

 

Saint Michel

This duo has yet to release an LP, but Philippe Thuillier and Emile Larroche are already carrying on the Versailles tradition. Their laid-back, synth-laced sound made its charming debut on last year’s I Love Japan EP. (For the uninitiated, French people really, really love Japan.) From “Katherine” to “Noël Faded,” Saint Michel found a striking balance between sweetness and melancholy. On latest single “Ceci N’Est Pas Une Chanson,” they make a nod toward Magritte with a clap-along beat, showing a knack for unusual textures. Keep an eye out for their first full-length album, set to be released later this year.
Essential track: “Katherine”
RIYL: MGMT, Generationals, Tanlines  

 

Chateau Marmont

The AM radio-inspired noodling of early Phoenix records strikes again, this time in the form of Chateau Marmont. Between the singalong harmonies of “Wargames” and the saxophone-laced sprawl of “The Maze,” the Parisian pop-rock trio showcases a diverse sound that’s rooted in the same cozy place. The longtime friends have also lent their more synth-friendly side to amped-up remixes for artists like Ladyhawke and Peter Bjorn and John. Chateau Marmont’s Wind Blows EP came out on May 21, with debut LP The Maze to follow.
Essential track: “Wind Blows”
RIYL: Alphabetical-era Phoenix, Kings Of Convenience

BlackBook Tracks #24: Prelude To Seasonal Affective Disorder

Is it gloomy today, or what? This week’s picks ended up involving a lot of vaguely melancholic dance music, so I hope you’re into that kind of thing. This is really just a precursor to when it’s February and there’s a blizzard going on and I hate everything and start filling up this column with just covers of the Smiths.

Owlle – “Ticky Ticky”

Rising French artist Owlle doesn’t have many songs released yet, but what’s out shows plenty of potential. Her latest, “Ticky Ticky,” balances her haunting vocals against a danceable beat. Emily Kai Bock (Grimes’ “Oblivion,” Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again”) directed its striking video.

Ava Luna – “Ice Level”

Would you like to go to a surrealist urban woodsman dinner/costume party? Minimalist funk band Ava Luna invite you to a weird world in the “Ice Level” video.

Team Ghost – “Dead Film Star”

Do you like French electro-rock? I like French electro-rock. Here’s the title track from Dead Film Star, the new EP from ex-M83 man Nicolas Fromageau.

Autre Ne Veut ft. Mykki Blanco – “Counting”

Brooklyn electro-pop maestro Autre Ne Veut will take you to a higher plane. Watch him team up with rapper Mykki Blanco in the solemn video for “Counting.”

Katy B ft. Jessie Ware and Geeneus – “Aaliyah”

Party-loving every-woman Katy B is back, and she’s announced her return with a free EP that dropped today. “Aaliyah” sees her singing with another soulful Londoner, Jessie Ware.

Chromatics – “Ceremony” (New Order cover)

Chromatics add some dramatic flair to the New Order/Joy Division classic in this pleasantly oozy cover.

Phoenix – “Lisztomania”

Phoenix have finally announced a new album, four years after the runaway success of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Party like it’s 2009, vive la fête!

Fort Lean – “Do You Remember”

Overheard at the Brooklyn quintet’s show last night: “I like that the singer can actually sing. You don’t hear that a lot these days.” Frontman Keenan Mitchell shows what he’s made of on this cut from the Change Your Name EP, a charming slice of indie pop-rock that flirts with nostalgia.

Baby Monster – “City Of Lovers”

Dearest Baby Monster, I am so sorry that I did not pay more attention to your City Of Lovers EP earlier this year. Your resonant, chilled-out electro-pop is really quite lovely. xoxo, Katie.

Lessons Learned From CMJ Music Marathon

Ah, the CMJ Music Marathon. Ahead of the circus of buzzbands, open bars, and impractical swag that took over NYC last week, I made a list of goals for myself that included things like “no puking,” “no crying,” and “no professions of love or hate.” (I like planning on having dramatic public meltdowns so that I Murphy’s Law my way out of them actually happening.) I’m proud to announce that I did not do any of these things, despite the stress induced by three different good bands playing at the same time in far-flung locations and having only consumed caffeinated beverages all day (#musicbloggerproblems). In between hating Pianos and mourning the closure of Brooklyn DIY venue Delinquency, I saw everything from Philadelphia rockers Free Energy to British YouTube comedians the Midnight Beast.

Five days spent away from being hunched over my laptop and interacting with the music industry in real life meant putting a microscope on what it is, exactly, that I do. I finally met a band that I’ve written about after seeing them for the fifth time in three months, and one of them said that he was aware of me “as an internet presence.” Several days later, I still have absolutely no idea of what this means, but if I’m memorable on the internet, that theoretically means I have some distinct viability as a blogger, right? For both of our sakes, let’s hope so.

In meeting so many new people, there’s also the pressure to qualify what you like and why you like it. I’ve taken to boiling my taste down to “French dance music and internet rappers,” though obviously I listen to music that goes beyond that. I’m trying to pin down why I’m so excited about Team Spirit when I thought my garage rock phase ended years ago; they have a higher production value and stronger pop sensibilities than some of their peers, and nothing can replace genuine good energy. That being said, it was also a pleasure to catch Gallic electro-poppers like Yan Wagner, Owlle, and Housse de Racket.

Other highlights included Citizens!, Avan Lava, We Were Evergreen, Conveyor, and the amount of grievously unhealthy food that I justified consuming. Gold Fields must be a very special band, because I stayed conscious for their 2:30 a.m. set on the last night of the festival. As much fun as CMJ is, it’s also pretty exhausting, so I’m going to keep working on recovering.

Anyways, here’s to the pursuit of vibes. Maybe you’ll catch me vomiting on Ludlow Street next year.

Miscellaneous other notes:

– Why did so many people ask me if I saw Skaters? (I wasn’t able to, though they were one of my picks for the week.)
– I also did not see Foxygen, one of the more hotly tipped acts of the festival. Based on their name, I’m going to keep assuming that they’re sort of glam rock and wear a lot of neon.
– Seeing Le1f at The Westway while it was packed with drunk bros was the second most uncomfortable I have ever been at a rap show.
– If someone figures out how I can join Icona Pop if I’m not Swedish and can’t sing, please let me know.
– Spotted so many dudes with great eyebrows. Keep up the good work, boys!

 

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