Elsewhere by Graham Reid

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Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion by writer Graham Reid

Various Artists: So French So Chic 2013 (Carte!l/Border)

Unibox: De Toi a Moi
Various Artists: So French So Chic 2013 (Carte!l/Border)

It has been fashionable in hip circles to be instantly dismissive of the annual So Frenchy So Chic double-disc compilations of French pop and sometimes with good reason: they do err to the lightweight (Barbara Carlotti increasingly sounding like a one note artist) and for cool club sounds.

As with any such collection, these have been patchy -- but as always there are pop nuggets (often beautifully produced) scattered around, although you don't come here for bally rock, French hop-hop and so on. But a number of the songs are in English (which is perhaps helpful to many).

The last collection was rather good but this one takes a little while to get going, until We and I's acoustic folk-pop on Captain Kid five tracks in, in fact, which sounds like it could slot into an album by Clientele, Camera Obscura or others on the Pop Frenzy label.

Partir Ensemble do a nice line in hypnotic pop-rock, Melanie Pain (a familiar name from Nouvelle Vague) ups the ante a bit from most of her previous work for the driving dance-pop of 7 ou 8 Foie, Claire Lisle's A Quel Soleil is sassy (but the backing vocals remind of Herbs on Slice of Heaven), Julie Stone and Benjamin Biolay deliver a girly-girl and husky boy duet thing . . .

Lou Doillon's ICU is a post-coital/post-breakup mood piece, Odezenne gets away from archetypal French trip-hop, Emilie Simon is still annoying . . .

If you believe this collection, France seems woefully short of male singers too. 

But after last year's more spicy collection, this one does sound like it has reverted to type (soft pop, coolly emotionally distant singers, more acoustic guitars than electric, Unibox's posted track far too typical).

So while it might seem fashionable to be dismissive, there are more than enough tracks here you would feel justified in giving a Gallic shoulder shrug to.

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