Various Artists; So Frenchy So Chic 2012 (Cartell/Border)

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Walker: Cascadeur
Various Artists; So Frenchy So Chic 2012 (Cartell/Border)

The annual double discs under the banner So Frenchy So Chic -- "the unofficial soundtrack" to the Alliance Francaise French Film Festivals in Australia -- allow the casual listener to tune in to the state of French pop (as opposed to rock and hip-hop) and are something of a mixed assortment.

Some in previous years have seemed very lightweight, as if being a pop singer in France required ingestion of emotional helium and being force-fed a whispery style from birth.

But there are always oddities and even diamonds amidst the feather pillow pop on display.

This edition however really kicks things up a few notches from the previous collection and if -- and that is a big "if" -- this is the current state of French pop then it has discovered odd and interesting percussion, if nothing else, since last year.

Of the familiar names here are displaced Arizonians Moriarty (with their alt.country in English on I Will Do), Camille (Mars is no Fun from her album Ilo Veyou) and . . .

And that's about it from me.

The rest are all new names to Elsewhere: the enjoyably light New Wave pop of Abd Al Malik, the sultry pop tones of Ornette (a woman, also in English on Crazy), the surreptitiously whispery chanson-noir of Zaza Fournier, the Gin Wigmore-meets-circus sound of Nadeah, the sneaky ennui of The Do, the Barbarella-cum-Austin Powers sound of L with Jalouse . . .

That's quite a stack of enticing tracks on the first disc, which ends with the ambient pop of Black Eye Blues by Meringue, Alcohol and Us (also in English).

The second disc springs just as many delights after Camille's seductively claustrophobic pop: the country guitar twang of Mariama on No Way (again, in English), the angular drama of Fefe with Miss Wesh Wesh Yo, the spaghetti western influenced L'homme a la peau musicale by Daphne, The Do again this time in pop mode . . .

This is a lot of diverse French pop and might just have you checking out a FNac store on-line to seek out more by some of these you will sample here. Can't see that the alt.country outfit Phoebe Killdeer and the Short Straws will be unsigned for too much longer.

A much improved outing over last time, and not just because so many of these are in English. 

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