I need to share some music, before a whole year goes by without it on my blog! So, I’m taking advantage of the recent Victoires de la musique where a few of my favourite discoveries performed and – what would be the newest expression for it – smashed it.
Eddy de Pretto : Probably my last year’s favourite discovery of them all. His music and his lyrics and his videos and his personality and his style couldn’t get more direct and unapologetically him and “poetically violent” as one of the comments says. He has this weird way of making you identify with his lyrics even when your story has so little to do with his. Universality in particularity, isn’t that art?
P.S.: He’s the one writing the song for homophobes, and a song about (toxic) virility.
Angèle : The Belgian girl who wrote the perfect song about Murphy law, then about money and then jealousy and then — happiness, of course. I can’t be bothered by its too evident pop qualities, when at least there is some intelligence in it and the melodies that let you dance to the ironies, or whatever you call it, of life. And then, her brother brings in a new groove and I swing and try to forget – well – everything… except that for me, for now, spleen is still fashionable, damn it.
Camélia Jordana : I’ve known her for a long time, but never shared her music here. With this song, it seems perfect, a beautiful reminder that as much as we like to think of ourselves as enlightened, it’s all just a ridiculous puppet show if we don’t clean up our act and make no exception for our supposed values. There is honestly still a lot I don’t know about French history, or European or in general really, but the first thing we all have to do is educate ourselves. And what I love about music is this ability that shows in the performance below – to remind us just as harshly as any other form of criticism, yet addressing that human part of us we all share.
… and French as a language that still feels like it makes the simplest thing sound enchanting, literally.
And this scene that is in a way even richer than I imagined. And culture that loves words, loves life, loves poetry, loves literature, loves music, loves art, loves culture, period. And the sadness and the joy that dance together here. If I could feel at home in a feeling, it could just as well be the one I sense while listening French music, even though I can’t really explain why. These songs are just a minor drop in a massive wave, of course.
(Hint: The favourite, the one the most inspiring the mentioned feeling, is the last one, which you could easily guess if you knew me – it’s not just pure, but actual poetry put into music.)
Grand Blanc – Belleville: Finally, my almost-home has a pop song with the bestest video for my teenage self.
Nevché – Decibel: To listen late at night, lights out, while thinking about moving to Marseille, his town. (And to not forget, and wonder about over and over, the obsession of French people with their dearest – sadly departed and much missed – Johnny … Hallyday, of course.)
Clara Luciani – Les fleurs: For the Parisian blues.
Several years ago, the choice for this post would have been so easy, some Seine riverside photo or other, Pont Neuf, or a random Parisian street. Today, though, my place in the world seems to be transforming constantly. Home is a feeling, not a place, anyway. Not that I don’t feel like belonging to my favorite city anymore, I still very much do, I still adore its streets and its banks as much as always, I still get the sweet aching sting in my chest every time I leave it. Yet, the older(?) I get, the more I feel like the stuffy city air, the absence of true green colour, the noise, are getting to me … and the more I feel at home at the Southern part of France. The more I appreciate that special easy charm, worn out and lively, the clearing wind rushing through. And the closeness of salty air, hitting your stuffed nostrils, those narrow paths among the bushes and the flowers, with such stunning views on the majesty of the world you have to actually catch your breath again.
In the words of my friend, on our last day on this magnificent island, a country of its own, really : ”What are we waiting for?” – to change our homes into a place where we can breathe and walk freely, where there is everything you need to build your own little paradise.
Would I last here, though, wouldn’t I miss the other side? Maybe, there is never just one place where we belong, there always have to be more, complementing each other in their contrasts.
Once in a while, I can make an exception. Because none of these artists is really new to me. They are too big of a star not to know them once you are in France for a while, a part of the obliged cultural background you adopt willingly or not. Yet, what they all have in common is they have only recently grown on me… I guess I’m not that resistant to media after all.
Orelsan : This guy brings up memories of my second job in Paris, in one of those English food chains where my boss kept putting on his music during our early morning kitchen hours. I must have listened to some of his songs a thousand times in one week. Still, soon after I forgot the melodic refrain about why the Earth is round and round or whatever … Then, last year he released a new album and a new single called Basique with quite a bad-ass video, followed by another, Tout va bien (I guess I could be grateful for a minute that at least my friends and my – new – boss always keep the TV on, since I don’t have one, grateful even for that impossibly annoying music chain that makes you believe France and the World generally posses only 5-10 worthy artists). I was hooked. Why? Who can ignore the guy who openly says in his song: ”Ok, I’m putting out a new album, but first we need to go through the basics, I’m gonna make a simple video to say simple things because you’re too stupid…” And then, he does. Yet, doesn’t stop there. Every single new song I hear gets the whole of my attention, which, I’m sorry to admit, doesn’t happen often with rap, and makes me appreciate the fact I understand the lyrics, now. Below is his performance at Victoires de la Musique.
Je craquerai pas.
Julien Doré : I’m sure you all know the refrain baby I love you less and less because of what you’ve done to me, right? Well I had before dreaming of Paris became a reality, ignoring the name of the singer completely. Coming here his stardom surprised me a bit, so I half-intentionally committed to continue to ignore his music. But you know, that TV which is always on at work succeeded in making his voice an essential part of the background and one YouTube suggestion could then make me appreciate it further… Still, the verdict is staying in-between. I’m not succumbing quite yet. Except to his hair which remind me of an old friend. And this song. This song!
Benjamin Biolay : Then, there is this man, a singing actor or acting singer. Ever since I first heard of him, he had that allure of an important figure of the scene, infinitely loved by some, yet thoroughly misunderstood, or rather just not understood at all, by others. I’m still not sure I really get him. His esthetic seems personal, mostly laid-back and somehow slightly non-conformist without being too pretentious, or maybe just a bit. As much as his name is all over the media place, his songs aren’t, so much so, in contrast to the two above, I had to decide on my own to go listen to his music and see what it is about. One song quickly found her place in the jungle-like atmosphere of the moment in my life, gently affirming ”so, yeah, I’m taking my time, all the time, super-relaxed” as if to say so what, I’m cool… in various layers of it. Now, I’m cool with him.
Till next time, where I’m back again with some actual new names.
Maybe, I should entitle it ”music discovered in France”, since they are not all from the capital, but hey Paris sounds better 🙂
Gaël Faye : I immediately fell in love. First of all, with his lyrics, then with the interpretation and the accompanying music (credits to the composer Guillaume Poncelet as well). He just has it, no need to say more. I wasn’t sure if he was a singer or a poet, but soon realized I heard his name for the first time as an acknowledged author (of Petit pays, also a title of one of his songs about Burundi), although novel-writing in his life chronologically came second. Still, it sort of explains the power and the place of words in his music and the skill and the flow. Coincidences happened and I forgot and rediscovered him as a musician. Yet, they are not separated, just as he says about being metis – he is not 50/50, half of something and half of the other. He just is, who he is, wholly. A beautiful human being with a story and a voice, that is for sure. His portrait of Paris (not the one you imagine) is … I’d say magical, but really it is just so sincere.
Lady Sir : Sometimes, two in one feels good and makes wonders. Woman and man, two voices, two languages, two sides, two stories. They got me with this duality which forms a magical unity, a simple music carrying a subtle theatrical dimension, the one escaping monologues and hence, monotony. Stories, stories, always stories, I’m obsessed and possessed by those…
Buridane : I’m one of those people for whom saying we’re angry or resentful doesn’t come easy, so maybe hearing her saying so lightly ”je t’en veux, je t’en veux” felt kind of liberating. So, I kept on clicking on… And — I know, I repeat myself — again the stories she tells got me, the characters painted with her words, the situations we know in life and love for which it feels good to share them in sounds, for a few minutes lift the burden of heavy sentiments and just sing with it. Anyways, she has a lovely voice and a nice spoken-word touch, plus the melodies which make you swing. So, go treat yourself.
So, my summer ended with the weekend at Rock en Seine (I might be a bit late writing about it, but the hectic autumn started too soon…), or almost. It became a tradition to make the painful transition out of the vacation into real life with new music discoveries and seeing some of my favorite bands live. Could be worse. The XX,HER and Mac DeMarco, a big heart out to you. But below are the ones I didn’t really know before hearing them live at St Cloud.
Rendez-vous : The absolute favourite Sunday festival discovery, my first concert of the day, arriving after the show had already started and falling in immediately. Raw is how I’d call it, the essence of what I love about rock music, with that modern electronic twist. The energy of these Parisians kept making waves through the crowd, breaking the circle of loyal fans and making new ones. Me included. Put your dancing shoes on and put your hands up like you don’t care. Oh gotta love the youth.
Le Villejuif Underground : First of all, I really like their name, wearing their origins proudly, though to me they sound so New York I’m not surprised they are not all French and there’s an Australian in there among those ”disturbed” fellows. Gotta adore his voice. And this sound! The Velvet Underground? The Strokes? The beats? Yes, I hear the beats in there… Smooth and groovy. I repeat: gotta love the youth.
Barbagallo : There is something about this guy. First hearing (about) him, I only saw that calm of his which can’t be all quiet inside, and you know it. Something so old-school and even eccentric in such a non-abusive way I even hear Tame Impala in the 70s in there somewhere. Music that can always suit well in the background, still to really appreciate it you have to be in the right mood … I think. Or maybe, it hits you when you least expect it, after sneaking, sinking in slowly.
Inuït : I wasn’t quite sure about this band, hearing a song on a playlist before the show. I thought it was just one more modern pop song, trying to be different. Yet, the concert half-intrigued me into giving them a chance. The feeling was right, their performance convincing and there is something quite theirs in music they create together. Maybe, the synergy works its magic live. Anyway, now I’m singing along with these non-Parisians once in a while when the pop needs occur and especially dig the OHs and AHs and EHs when they burst out.
A few of the best spots where those special, magical moments that make a journey worth it happened.
Sunset : Pointe de l’Islet, Tadoussac. I kept coming back to this place, pretty much every day, at different times, thanks to its accessibility and easiness in its air, usually to read or just sit there, sort of meditating. One evening I decided to stay longer than usual, digged up my stubbornness from somewhere deep inside my body and this is what I got…
Reading : Pointe de l’Islet, Tadoussac & Parc de l’Esplanade, Québec City & Canal de Lachine and Parc La Fontaine, Montréal. Just give me a bench or a grassy/rocky spot and I can read. Yet, there are places engraved in my heart, because they somehow add the allure to the books or the act itself (debatable). Because I can lift my head up from the sentences and have a view to rest my mind or eyes. These four were quite nice.
Breakfast : Maison Smith, Place Royale, Québec City. One morning I decided to take breakfast outside the hostel and headed to the cutest square of the cutest quarter. Oh the good decisions. I just sat there appreciating the cinematic like scene and even more – the waiter’s impeccable ability to understand the length of my espresso (”Not Italian short, you know, but not too long neither.”). Thanks for the morning patience!
Chill : Anse à la Barque, Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay (Tadoussac). Probably my favourite place in the whole of Québec. And it’s not an exaggeration. It was on one of my favourite days, too. Whichever hiking path I took that day, I loved it. I wrote about it already, so I’m just going to say that sitting on a rock in this bay, completely alone, except the birds flying around me and a seal at the end of it, was one of the best breaks of my life. That apple in my hand tasted even better than usual somehow.
Lunch : St-Viateur Bagel, Montréal & Café Bohème, Tadoussac. First, was the unimpressive poutine, greasy stuff you eat after a long walk and then you don’t move no more for the day. Then, were the Montreal’s bagels. Well now, now we’re talking real food. I appreciated the bread with a hole much more than I’d expected. Later still, leaving the grand city, I went for the lovely bistros. Tadoussac’s one stayed my favourite of them all. Not sure if it was the home-made raspberry lemonade, the delicious (maple syrup!) marinated tofu burger, decent coffee, or super friendly waitress. All of them, combined.
Bus drive : from Rimouski to Gaspé. Most of it was along the coast, so different from the one across, with its scattered rocks and waves rushing towards actual beach-like shores, and water reflecting afternoon sun, the pictoresque villages to cross and many colourful houses overlooking the beaches, and then the forests. The Gaspé peninsula’s charmed me quite quickly, almost immediately after the bus left the shallow Rimouski station. I soon heard the uncomprehensive local accent, too…
Boat trip : Percé and Île-Bonaventure. Because it’s worth seeing the famous rock up close, from every direction, and then from a far in all its glory, only half observable from the coast. And especially, because the island is stunning, its landscape, its cliffs, toped with green, its rocks, nesting sooo many birds and even seals, its emptied houses on friendlier shores (no one lives there nowadays). I wonder what it has to be like to miss the last boat and stay stranded there alone during the night…
Evening : Rue St Jean, Québec. Because the street musicians come out and make it all wonderful.
View : Mont Royal, Montréal & Mont Adéla Lessard, Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay (Tadoussac) & Mont Saint-Anne, Percé. There were many. Each time you climb, hike, walk a bit, you’re due to get some. Sometimes, it’s the effort that makes them sweeter, sometimes it’s simply there. These are a few that stayed with me.
Tree : La Forêt Magique, Percé. Because I think I found my spirit/soul tree in the midst of the magical forest, right there in front of the bench I sat down on for a brief moment.
I wanted to include my favourite streets in Montreal and Québec, too, but realized that, although there were some I really liked, there were none which truly blew me away. So, why force myself then. If you follow the usual instructions and visit the main quarters, you’ll easily find them yourself anyway.
Don’t get me wrong. Concerts and festivals are like breathing, or like a drug to me – if I don’t get a regular fix, I might as well be dead. Still, I almost never take photos, I’ve never really understood why. Being too crazily excited in the moment and safely guarding it later in my mind was the usual way. This weekend was different, though. Maybe I needed it too much: that proof I still have so much life in me, so much to live still, independently of anyone. Maybe it was all the hits I heard live. Wasting My Young Years, The Seed, Another Love, Summertime Sadness, Papillon, Wonderwall, Where Is My Mind, Californication … Overdose in the best sense. Their quality might be below average, but for me the sentimental value counts more than that 😉 Anyway, here it is to the first best weekend of the year (the season is just getting started).
At least internationally, of course. Maybe I’m just talking from Slovenian youth’s perspective where francofolie is still a thing only within a limited crowd. Yet, I feel there are famous singers that are very much present in the French cultural spirit and had a huge influence in the music’s evolution, but are very less talked about outside of the francophone world. I started exploring it sort of retrospectively, obsessively clicking on YouTube search buttons while listening to interviews with new bright hopes of the Parisian and outer capital scene, talking about their inspirations. Something so self-evident to a French saying little or actually being completely unknown to me. Then, the ball continued to roll. Some of their songs really grew on me, so I decided to share them. Music has that eternal appeal, no matter the period it’s made in, right?
Alain Bashung : It was Fishbach cover of the song below on Monte le son (the thing to follow for live interpretations of current artists) that introduced me to him. And I admit the original touched me more. Something so pure about it. I soon realized his other (older) songs are much different, more demanding and surprisingly maybe even more modern in sound.
Daniel Balavoine : I think it was Fishbach’s fault as well. This guy… is touching beyond most of the others I know. He spilt his guts out on pretty much every song. And I find his voice is special, too. It seems like a strong spirit and a broken soul that was nonetheless meant to tell his story and shine through its own darkness. Yeah, you’re getting some poetical inclinations listening to his confessions. He’s the one cutting Mitterand’s monologue right in the middle of a debate with his own (angry) insights, still so meaningful today.
Jacques Dutronc : And then, this guy is all in for the happy songs. Or not really. As feel-good as they sound, they often have something critical, even cynical to say, still today. He knew how to get his message across for sure. I needed a hundred indications for his existence, from a humoristic TV show (Fais pas ci fais pas ça) to TLSP cover of Les Cactus, but I finally got it and now I’m loving it.
Francis Cabrel : Looking for the love songs, you eventually (or probably quite soon) definitely stumble upon quite a few of his songs. I admit, even I succumbed to the desire of someone singing those lyrics to me, so beautifully they express emotions through melodies. They’re a classic, so you might find them on singing competition’s TV stages (like The Voice, of course) once in a while. You know, the ultimate test for musicians that defined the aspiring singers, searching for songs where they can successfully show their voice’s sincerity… and all that.
France, like many European countries, is a treasure chest of (long) weekend trips, whether you want to explore charming old towns or relax at the seaside. No matter where you’re located, the TGV train system makes almost everything feel close enough to just go and return in the same day or two. Cheap it is not, true, but with a bit of advance organisation or cutting the unnecessary budget expenses elsewhere somehow still usually doable. For me, it is a matter of priorities. I’ll make my own sandwich and give up coffee that day (no, this I never do…), not use any other public transport, only my own pair of legs, and skip the hotels, so I’ll manage. And it never quite gets old, exploring this beauty of a country.
First, of course, there’s the Île de France region, with all the castles and palaces, parks and villages, from Fontainebleau to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. I, however, am aiming further out. (I’m deliberately not including Provence here which, truth be told, itself alone deserves a whole two weeks minimum anyway.) Some of the places below would with all they have to offer easily demand more than just a weekend, yet they are even if you don’t have the time still worth giving it the few hours you do have. Hope the below gives a few ideas to start your discoveries.
After a few of my own, I decided to share my personal favourites …
Normandy: The North equivalent of Provence, I’d say. And so close to Paris, too. It’s probably best to rent a car if you have the possibility and just roam from town to town along the coast. Honfleur, Deauville, Trouville, Cabourg are a few of the Riviera essentials among so many. Just be prepared for the wind… and the crêpes. Then, you have the city of Rouen with its own cathedral and Le Havre for the impressionism fans. Another classic, of course, it’s Giverny, a nice village with the perhaps most known personal garden in the world – Monet’s. This, I find a bigger must than Versailles and a far more pleasing day trip from Paris, especially in summer and spring.
Étretat : The absolute favourite among the Normandy jewels. Despite the lovely village, it’s nature that reigns here with the magnificent cliffs and meadows.
Bordeaux : This city is the nicest of surprises. You hear talking about it only because of the wine, just to realize its charm has nothing to do with it. Get a good fix of strolls, markets, bistros, history and art. What more do you need?
La Rochelle : When in need of a seaside break in-between the beach and a little town life, think of this one. Take coffee at the Vieux Port, then hit the sand and the rocks and the welcoming sunshine. Again, be prepared for the wind, it’s still the Atlantic.
You can also choose among the other big cities/towns. Strasbourg, Lille, Bourges, Lyon, Toulouse, Marseille… I’d recommend the last two the most, but then they are the furthest from Paris. There, you can easily immerse into their old quarters for a few hours, explore the history and enjoy the laid back atmosphere, in my experience much more than in the others.
Then, of course, there are the smaller ones as well, often even more appealing with their innocent charm, for the last few ideas!
Mont Saint Michel : The magical historical place that competes with Paris for the number of visitors per year.
Chartres : For one of the most beautiful cathedrals and a simple walk through its streets.
Troyes : Another medieval destination, not far from Paris.
Colmar : The least French-like among them all, but so cute.
Now, ready, steady, go! I’ll sure be on my way to a new one soon, I haven’t quite completed the list myself…
Her : As internationally as they look, sound and actually are, these guys’ collaboration comes from France (not Paris though). I’ve always appreciated (electro-pop) artists giving a bit of soul into their music when it’s so easy not to do it and still produce a hit. Well, they understood my inclination and are already booming all over the world. No need for the five minutes, one of their songs is talking about, to convince and seduce you to swing along.
Juliette Armanet : So often, it’s all about how the voice and the articulation of such a beautiful language are gaining a reign all over a song. At least, that’s what she makes me wonder about. Maybe, it’s with a bit of melancholy and nostalgia, with that inspiration that must come straight out of the best of not only French ballads of the past century. Most certainly, it’s with impeccability.
+ Check out her French version of I feel it coming (The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk), it’s absolutely beautiful.
Melanie Pain : I’m sure you all know her voice, but maybe you are like me in ignoring her as a solo songwriter. Correct that mistake. After loving every single curve of her melodic interpretations as a part of Nouvelle Vague (Master and Servant and God Save The Queen!), I almost by accident discovered the song below a couple of days ago. A familiar name told me to give it a try. Oh the good random procrastination choices.
No need for introductions anymore.
Fishbach ; Cyril Mokaiesh ; Faire…
No need for introductions anymore.
Fishbach : First, I thought her songs are alright. But on the second listen already, I became addicted. I’ve always had a thing for a sombre kind of pop music, you know, the kind when you feel the darkness looming in the background and awakening in your soul, together with that irresistible urge to move and shake and, well dance, and tell the whole world to go … there. There’s something in her sound and lyrics that corresponds to my mood – and even nature I’d say – immensely, so profoundly I think the last I felt it must have been with the White Lies, after Joy Division or The Cure or much of the blues music. Because essentially, there’s more to it than sadness, sadness isn’t even what we’re aiming for here. That’s why when it comes to her, the fact that she makes me think of Barbara and Eurythmics at the same time is quite appreciated. Tell me your life and at the same time make me dance on the 80’s beats.
Je veux du noir et je veux de l’espoir.
Cyril Mokaiesh : Just look at this video and try to understand a bit of the lyrics. The confession mood got me, after the guy already got my attention with songs actually entitled Communiste and La loi du marché. His music is demanding in a different manner than the above, yet you have to admit it has balls. What I appreciate is that his voice occasionally escapes the expectations and takes its own curvy path.
Faire & salut c’est cool & Casse Gueule : For those who like La Femme and Grand Blanc and the like of la nouvelle scène française, but think they didn’t go far enough. These do, oh yes, they do. For all the hipsters that got excluded from the crowds. Who knows, it might be your comeback, this punky electro eclectic style and sound, winning without trying to.
The emptiness of the scene, its lack of quality and diversity, the awfulness of the general taste. Nope, don’t know what you’re talking about… I think you’re just looking the wrong way!
What I miss most after leaving Ljubljana, besides the walks on its riverbanks and its art markets, is those (semi)local concerts, some of them so unexpectedly good, others just as excellent as I imagined them to be. Those moments when you’re really not sure what kind of hopelessness people talk about. The emptiness of the scene, its lack of quality and diversity, the awfulness of the general taste. Nope, don’t know what you’re talking about… I think you’re just looking the wrong way!
N’toko and Moveknowledgement : The Slovenian music scene’s favourite guy, probably. His insightful lyrics on the atmosphere and mentality of the country, followed by the commentary articles in one of the most critical magazines, and we can’t imagine our culture and intellectual society without him. Leaving the exaggeration behind, he is good. The group he’s with when not solo, even more so. Never say boredom and numbness and inertia again. Instead hear them live!
Ludovik Material : One single was enough for me to fall for them. The female singer voice and presence are mighty, the lyrics only add a necessary red cherry on the rock top kick.
Severa Gjurin and Olivija : The best female voice and singing with the gentle music accompaniment. Can it get better than that?! The Sunday morning melody. And the Monday evening tune.
New Wave Syria : When it comes to electronic music, this is where I go. To shake, dance, shout out the necessary, tell everyone to get lost and then chill still lying on my bed alone.
All Strings Detached : Another proof that to follow the cream of the scene, one needs to follow the student radio’s record company, the alternative one, they say. In this case, to ease the melancholy needs.
Zircus : Saw them with my ex for the first time. Bought the two albums they had released at the time on the spot. Never regretted meeting my ex thanks to them (and a few other bands, I admit). I still prefer them live, but I’ve always considered that as a weird compliment for a band.
Res Nullius : For some time, this was the rock band I adored the sound of the most. Don’t ask why. Something so sombrely cheerful about it. Couldn’t resist putting them on the list, although there’s no English here, sorry!
Thanks to this post I just took the trip down the memory lane! Nostalgia it is for a week!
It’s time again to share a bit of Parisian melodies. My favourite time.
Grand Blanc : I just spent my weekend at Rock en Seine festival*, being in the presence of many legendary acts, but what counts just as much to me is the discovery of the new ones. Algerians Imarhan mesmerized the whole place with their sound on Sunday. The day before, though, it was a truly local band that captured the attention and got our dancing shoes running and heads waving right until they passed the torch to their counterparts La Femme. I expected a good show and was still presently surprised. They are good. They have the necessary energy and a little something that despite all similarities to some bands keeps their own thing going.
Les Marinellis : This is a band whose concert at Point Ephemere I just missed… Unfortunately, life has its plans. However, I believe they could very well be worth it. The kind of music that makes me feel the je m’en foutisme in all its fun and gain. Life can be messed up and stupid and questionable, but let’s move our feet and raise our hands to the beat. Got to get to know them better!
Clara Luciani : Someone I am about to hear live. So different from the above. Clear and subtle voice with only a one instrument accompaniment and all the inescapable emotional charge. Even through a recording or a video the presence is remarkably apparent and strong, yet tender-heartedly so.
Why don’t I just stop writing these posts and link you (again) to theweekly?! I realized they are forming my taste when it comes to French music. I unquestionably trust them somehow.
*If you’re really interested in the music of the wide-Paris region, check out the acts under the line-up of the Ile de France stage.*
I used to be a local and now I’m an outsider – in a strange, still interconnected way. My top vacation place is now what I used to call my home.
So, I started thinking how and why it sincerely is a place worth visiting.
I used to be a local and now I’m an outsider – in a strange, still interconnected way. My top vacation place is now what I used to call my home. Does this weird position give me a different perspective? Maybe, but then it is a kind of love-hate relationship. I understand very well why I left it and still want to stay out of it, but at the same time it has never for a minute lost all the possibilities of being absolutely gorgeous to me. There has been more and more talk about our little precious country, though still not as much as about our beloved seaside destination Croatia, and while I travel or make new friends more and more people are asking me about it. Those at least who know where it is or are not ashamed to admit they don’t.
So, I started thinking how and why it sincerely is a place worth visiting.
1. The cutest capital. It is one of the smallest ones, yes, but that is not so important – besides the fact that you’ll probably never have to use public transport to get around. Ljubljana is pretty and welcoming, perfect for walking through the old centre and relaxing on the river banks or Park Tivoli. It won’t fascinate you with its majesty, but will grow on you in a matter of seconds. It’s hard to get away from its simple and modest charm, although I am biased – to me, it is the family I never got to choose, but love profoundly, because it was always there to imprison, gently bite or comfort me. It does it all well. One day is already enough, in two days you will know it as the inside of your own pocket and then… try to resist the temptation to just move there for good because it is oh so pleasant and comfortable. Or be like me and only come back when you need a bit of time off. Climb the castle hill, chill out on the ”beach” or Metelkova at night (or Trnovo, especially in the month of August), and check out the markets, food, art or antique ones.
2. Diversity. While in Ljubljana, you are never more than one or two hours away from climbing and skiing destinations, beautiful lakes and rivers, seaside, vineyards, caves and Pannonian fields. It is all there, the richness of different landscapes on a small hen shaped land. It is something we keep repeating to ourselves as some kind of comforting mantra, a solace for our inferiority complex. It is no less true, though – we are caught between Mediterranean, the Alps, Karst and Pannonia, and of that at least we can be proud of, sort of… Let’s not even begin to dissect all the dialects and accents a seemingly unimportant Slovenian language can boost about!
View somewhere around Štanjel.
3. Culture. No, it is not a cultural history of one of the Grand European Nations, still there is something about it. It might be a culture of a peasant and too-long-opressed nation as we keep seriously joke about it, yet it is there, it survived, although it never triumphed. When I think about it like that, I feel there is beauty in this fact alone. An old history that is very far from being uninteresting. The pacifist hymn and all the beautiful paintings, writers who seemed to be so close to the heart of the people in its misery and drunken joys…
4. Expansion. A certain youth of our country (it is of my own age) and culture gives me a feeling of growth sometimes, even though I’m far from being patriotic. I know most Slovenians wouldn’t agree and would only see a naive or idiotic child, nevertheless I do see it in the occasional buzzing of the actual youth and its projects. In the midst of suffocating simple-mindedness, there are living and breathing and beating individuals and groups. We have a tradition of meaningful art and even rebellion, and it is good to notice it is still there, in music, films or lines worth paying attention to and it might even be finding some new grounds, precisely because not everything has already been done and seen. Best of all, it is not only happening in the capital.
5. Nature. We could go on forever. When you get out of the city, green surrounds you everywhere, and even in the city it’s hard to avoid it. Still, go far out. To Soča, for example, a pristine river of stunning colours. To Bohinj, a lake to meditate next to. Or Cerkno, to wonder about all the holes in the ground. To Postonjska jama, the cave, to indulge your touristy needs, or Rakov Škocjan if your needs are less touristy. Or turn to the other side and explore the charms of Štajerska and Prekmurje. Climb some hills, appreciate the forests, observe the fields. Just find your own little haven.
6. Food & Wine. We won’t pretend we are France or Italy, but if you want to, you can eat and drink so well in Slovenia. A few restaurants that would definitely deserve Michelin stars and vineyards that are already gaining international reputation. Traditional food might be heavy, yet finding a good place to eat with a bit of an effort shouldn’t be so hard. And what you get for the price you pay it’s usually still far more satisfying than in some other corners of Europe. All in all, quite a few chances it might positively surprise you.
I said the list would grow, right? Well, here’s the second part of my eternal quest.
I said the list would grow, right? Well, here’s the second part of my eternal quest.
La Femme : There was a summer (or maybe it wasn’t actually summer) a few years ago when I was obsessed with one of their dancing tunes and then I never followed what they did next. Until a few weeks ago, when I rediscovered this band with unbelievable energy and not a bad collection of good songs, not really understanding why I had ignored their existence for so long. It was the video below that did it, so Parisian I had to like it, and a song, a bit out of their usual style, that sort of captured the mood of disenchantment with the world of … love, of course. Now, I can’t wait to see them live on one of the festivals.
Feu Chatterton : This is the tradition of French chanson modernized in its finest. I mean, I’m no expert, so not the one to judge here, maybe, but for me the singer, his voice and interpretation, alone is enough of an explanation why. Not underestimating the music, though! Even though I did like them right away, I had to listen to a few songs before really falling into their sound. Now, I’m totally digging it.
Midnight Special Records : When you don’t know what to listen to, because you got tired of everything on your usual list, or you just want something not too demanding in concentration, it’s perhaps time to check out what these guys are getting out on the scene. Theirs are Clea Vincent, Laure Briard and Michelle Blades, for example (everything is available to listen or purchase on their bandcamp account). So much pop, it can’t get much more popper, but at the same time it’s a different kind of pop that usually hits the charts. Dancy, melancholic and even slightly nuts in intervals, it’s most of the time something else than the usual packages. The reason you might actually like it, or quite possibly the opposite as well.
Babx : Because he’s doing everything I would be doing if I knew how to sing and play the piano. I rediscovered him with last year’s album of literary excerpts made into songs Cristal Automatique which is magnificent, all the more so because I heard it in its entirety live, his presence booming from the stage a few metres away. Not because he’s a showman, but because he’s so strong in what he does. Just as much also as a songwriter.
There is one eternal criteria that a city has to fulfill for me to really love it. I have to find nice little spots to read, not necessarily in calm, but certainly in ease. Paris nails it. Here, I never had a problem. Of course, there are cafés, but since I’m always on a tight budget, saving money for the next trip or concert, I rather enjoy the free priceless corners. These are probably not just the best reading, but also meditation and observation spots. For me, it comes down to the same thing in the end.
River banks : Absolute favourite. The banks, below the busy streets of St Michel, between Pont Neuf and Notre Dame. In the sun or in a shade, never alone, but somehow peaceful. Or a little further, the banks of Ile St Louis, where people drink their bottle of wine and where you can almost always hear a distant music. I always seem to gain back a certain piece of my mind and soul here.
Parks : The more or the less touristy ones. Once, I was in love with Jardin de Luxembourg and Tuileries when the season was less crowded. The green metal chairs, overlooking the fountain, children playing, birds hunting for crumbs, people on their lunch breaks, students with their books and debates, selfies and real photo shoots. A whole little world in there. Then I discovered Jardin des Plantes with its botanical diversity and a certain kind of cold laid-back-ness. And later, I stopped being a tourist and devoted myself to the green voluptuousness and real-life feel of Buttes Chaumont and to the small square, down Boulevard Hausmann, a street away from my work where I spent many breaks during spring and summer. Now, I sometimes escape to Parc Monceau, just to change the scene.
Random benches : Sometimes, it’s a bench outside of a museum or even on a bridge (some spectacular views there), a staircase leading to Pantheon or the many ones on the way to Sacre Coeur. Or a bench on the very end of the St Louis Island which used to be my favourite. It depends on a moment, on the mood, on your current itinerary. But when you really need it, you’ll probably find it and then you’ll just sit down and everything will rest and tranquillize itself for a minute, before you rush on again.
Here’s to the melodies that made and still are making my stay here bearable in its many anxieties and phenomenal in its just as many joys.
After publishing the post about my Chilean music discovery, I’ve been thinking I could easily share all of those just as awesome musicians I found right here, in my new hometown. There are many, but in the same time there are only a few that really had a moment of captivating me. The list will grow, I’m sure, because local music is one of the things you slowly adapt to and eventually adopt when you move to a new country. Of course, I’m talking about the contemporary scene and not the beloved pillars of la chansonfrançaise, not matter how I fell in love with them in high school (thank you, my dear professor for all the lessons in the company of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Juliette Greco, Barbara, Gilbert Becaud…).
Visiting the city’s many festivals, stepping into a hall at the right moment, walking past a free concert or just reading the cool weekly magazine (you all know I’m talking about Les Inrocks), either way it’s usually pure luck to find them and only an open ear can be a certain kind of guarantee you might. Here’s to the melodies that made and still are making my stay here bearable in its many anxieties and phenomenal in its just as many joys.
Fauve : This band, oh this band. It saves lives. When I first listened to their songs, it felt like they captured the dark side of this city’s essence. Dark sounds weird, but I say dark because they talk about the anxieties and loneliness we all encounter in this metro-necro-pole or chouette ville as they call it in Sainte Anne. You can accuse them of a certain new young ”bourgeois” attitude, maybe, like everyone really, however, I appreciate them for building a community around their music and message, for erasing or better softening the urges that so often occur, of battles inside us. I absolutely love their dance rhythms, the sound, the interpretation that in one precise moment made me fall in love with the French language all over again. (You forget how beautiful it is when you’re using it every day, constantly struggling through the little mistakes.) There can hardly be anything more healing and uplifting than raising your hand high to the song below, middle finger pointing to the sky, together with a crazy crowd after an already amazing day at Rock en Seine, shouting ”You know what, the blizzard in my head, c’est fini, tout ça c’est fini…” and well a few other less nice words…
Jeanne Added : I actually discovered her on the last year’s day of the music which is a fact I absolutely love. I remember stepping into the Place de la République from Rue du Faubourg du Temple and instantly asking myself ”What is this sound?!”. I never heard about her before, but at that moment I was navigating through a mass of people, insisting to get closer to the energy that was radiating from her voice and the whole band, commanding the stage. I hadn’t intend to stay at the venue, because I prefer smaller improvisational gigs, happening on street corners, but I remained in the crowd through the whole of her act. I couldn’t help it, since she was just getting better for my ears with each song. I still very much appreciate her sound.
Lucas Gabriel : Sometimes, I’m not the smartest cookie in the room, but my luck still saves me. Thinking out of tiredness against my own principle to hear out every introducing act of the concerts I attend, I was running late for the Benjamin Clementine one. Thank the goddess, I made it for the last couple of breaths of this guy’s magnificent voice. His music touches my heart and soothes my soul and hopefully I can finally get to see him solo some day soon. It’s not like we don’t live in the same city, right?
And I’m exercising my free will in adding another.
F. Nevchehirlian : This man can do no wrong for me. I admit I discovered him back home, in the middle of the tiniest capital, Ljubljana, but does it matter? He embraces everything I love about the tradition of the modern French chanson and is, besides that, also an intelligent and opinionated musician. Music is on point, his interpretations of lyrics even more, and the attitude he incorporates in his persona very much valued as well. I chose an old one, from the album inspired by Prévert‘s writings, because we should definitely listen to what it has to say more often.
Today is my favourite day of the whole year, especially because I get to experience it in Paris for the second time in a row. The day of the music.
Today is my favourite day of the whole year, especially because I get to experience it in Paris for the second time in a row. In the city (occasionally) buzzing crazy with creativity and joyfulness, even after one of its hardest years in the past decade and also during the people’s current awakening.
The day of the music.
So, I decided to share a little melodies and rhythms that I could guess you don’t already know. Before of course, I hit the streets in the search of the next obsession in the form of a street band or a momentary improvisation just around the corner, or a passing dance maybe, walking with my hips waving and shaking, following the drums heard from somewhere below… Yes, music will be everywhere today, so we can make sure that if ”the day the music died” comes in its literal meaning, it will be reborn again, on this date and in this city. Or whatever. Let’s just hum, sign, clap and groove for now.
You could probably guess that my favourite moments are those when I make my greatest musical discoveries. I had one of those beauties late one evening in January, lying on my hostel bed in Santiago with my headphones on, after a Tour for Tips (I sincerely recommend them) around the city’s flavoursome Patronato markets where the guide had been telling me about the Chilean music scene and his own band, called Captain Frisco.
I decided to give them a listen, just because he seemed like a cool guy and the band name was even cooler, and honestly : it was a really really good choice. The chill mood and the psychedelic sound, that’s all I need! I listened to their EP a couple of times after I came back from Chile, but then I totally forgot about them. I probably jumped to the next new shiny candy…It seems appropriate to recall them today.
In the spirit of remembering all the other sounds I came back with from South America and the ancient advice to always keep my ears open when I travel … or explore the everyday streets for that matter.