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 #22: Be Thankful For These Songs

Insert joke about tryptophan here. I’m thankful that I made it through my entire family dinner without anyone asking me if I was “seeing anyone special.” I’m also thankful that I am sane enough to have zero desire to line up outside Target to try to buy stuff that I don’t actually want. Thanksgiving’s over, let’s move on to this week’s tracks.

Saint Michel – “Katherine”

This swoon-worthy synth-pop duo is hard to resist. Hailing from Versailles, France, Saint Michel just made their American debut in New York City, and they’re sure to make more magic happen soon.

Villagers – “Nothing Arrived”

Irish folk outfit Villagers is prepping a new album, entitled Awayland. “Nothing Arrived” shows that main man Conor O’Brien still has plenty of straightforward charm.

Grizzly Bear – “Boy From School” (Hot Chip cover)

This mournful, stripped-down cover of one of Hot Chip’s breakout singles has a haunting effect that makes it just as powerful as the original.

Jens Lekman – “The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love”

Jens Lekman cures all ills.

Holidays – “Only In Dreams”

This Roman band charms effortlessly with a jangly, new wave-influenced take on indie rock. Is it summer again yet?

Cheatahs – “The Swan”

British guitar bands are supposed to be coming back, or something along those lines. London’s Cheatahs are set to lead the pack, armed with plenty of fuzzed-out pop hooks.

Girls – “Big Bad Mean Motherfucker”

Sure, Christopher Owens has gone solo now, but it’s nice to look back at when we first started loving him with Girls. With riffs rolling like the hills of San Francisco, “Big Bad Mean Motherfucker” is still a highlight from Album.

Graham Coxon – “What’s He Got?”

The story of being second best is a familiar one, but Mr. Coxon sounds surprisingly optimistic about it. If you can’t be dancing with tears in your eyes, mope with a smile on your face?

Lush – “Single Girl”

This one goes out to everyone who wasn’t lucky enough to avoid all of their aunts asking why they don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet.

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