Nouvelle Chanson is a somewhat ambiguous term used to describe a collection of musical characteristics prevalent in modern French pop music today. Often, it’s used to describe newer artists reviving the classic chanson style, a la Jaques Brel, or those who are taking their inspiration from the likes of Serge Gainsbourg. The term can also be broadly applied to any modern pop that employs a certain literary or theatrical influence; Rufus and Martha Wainwright have both had the label ascribed to recent projects. However, Nouvelle Chanson most often simply means any current music, whether it’s influenced by African rhythms, rock structures, or electronica, which uses the French language itself as its primary focus.
Every artist represented on Le Pop: Les Filles - Les Chansons De La Nouvelle Scène Française falls into the Nouvelle genre for any of these, or arguably several other reasons. But the people at Le Pop did not just throw these songs together based on a loose affiliation of labels or sounds, nor are they here simply for the fact that they are all by les filles. Each of the 16 tracks here is a discerning sampling of the very best pop coming out of France at the moment.
From the well-knowns, like Coralie Clement and Melanie Pain, to the newer names like Doris Park and Constance Amiot, Le Pop: Les Filles doesn’t discriminate, keeping its track listing fairly egalitarian. And stylistically, there’s a little bit of everything as well. Maud Lubeck’s “Le Parapluie” is a winningly winking and sly slice of swinging retro-pop, and “Barry White” from Fredda is a sultry, languid, ‘60s lounge-y sort of song that, excepting its subject, could be at home on the soundtracks of a film series featuring a certain spy.
Clement’s “So Long Babylone” incorporates Caribbean elements, naturally, and may be the catchiest among many captivating tunes, although you may also find yourself unable to get Julie B. Bonnie’s charming “Bonjour Monsieur” out of your head. Amiot’s “Clash Dans le Tempo” is a bluesy, shuffling, acoustic affair that showcases her assured and smoky vocals, while “Paris de Loin” by Poney Express is the energetic peak of chamber pop perfection.
Marianne Dissard appears with “Les Draps Sourds” from her collaboration with Calexico’s Joey Burns, L’Entredeux. Doris Park’s “Je Ne Te Quitterai Jamais” is sung partly in English as well as in French, and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful in both. “Cupide et Stupide” by Austine is all the more precious for its simplicity, and with the folky banjo, sunny harmonies, and hand clapping, it’s yet another that will have you singing along, whether or not you have any French.
Other highlights include Barbara Carlotti’s “Mademoiselle Opossum” and Marianne Feder’s “Toi Mon Indien”, both of which have that classic combination of accordion, horns and humor you expect to see in the café scene of an old film.
Melanie Pain’s winsome voice is, as ever, hard to resist on “Celle De Mes 20 Ans”. In fact, the entire album is irresistible, and nowhere is that fact more obvious than on the final track. Ambient effects, delicate instrumentation, a sweet voice, and a sad refrain coalesce in Jeanne Cherhal’s “Si Tu Reviens J’annule Tout”. It’s haunting and entrancing, a flawless encapsulation of Le Pop: Les Filles, and we can only hope Le Pop returns to us with another installment from les filles of Nouvelle Chansons bientôt.