Various Artists: So Frenchy So Chic 2015 (Cartell/Border)

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Lucas Santtana w Fefe: Diary of Bike
Various Artists: So Frenchy So Chic 2015 (Cartell/Border)

In theory, with Spotify and the web, it should be incredibly easy to access music from all corners of the globe. But it's always helps to have someone shine the spotlight into the darkness if it's something in the nature of world music, or pop from a country on the other side of the planet.

That's why Elsewhere – which has a decent track record in the world music/non-English pop stakes – always enjoys these annual double CD samplers from France and has pointed the torch at them in the past.

So here is a 19 song selection offering the customary diversity from slinky dancefloor pop, hip-hop influenced styles, neo-disco, nods towards African sounds, those oh-so-French emotionally weary chanteuse ballads and all the rest. (Except hard rock, this is more for those on the “chic” end of the spectrum).

There is minimal track information (no name of the album the track might have come from) but of course you can always do a simple search on people like Soviet Supreme, Cliché, My Cheap Little Dictaphone, The Curse, Boogers (who despite the name do rather bland sub-Belle and Sebastian pop in English), Radio Elvis and the superbly named Jesus Christ Fashion Barbe.

And you probably do want to find out more from people who have song titles like Empty Walls, Bike, Finger is On (now that would be by Jesus Christ Fashion Barbe, right?) and Blow Up.

La Feline with La fumee dans le ciel/Smoke in the Sky offer a neat little understated sliver of featherweight guitar-driven pop (think early Cure turning in to a very trippy Feelies), Junior's La fin du monde/The End of the World sounds nothing like its title but is a rather cute piece of up-close and gentle electro-derived chanteuse pop, Simon Dalmais' Soleil libre/Free Sun is McCartney-like pastoral piano ballad . . .

But they are among the few diverting tracks on disque un.

Then on disque deux it's as if someone said, "Right, we got that stuff out of the way so now, let's have some fun."

Lucas Santtana's Diary of a Bike and Mina Tindle's The Curse which open the second disc get things away in fine form with a tickling, almost juju/Sahara blues guitar on the English-language former (with a rap in French) and tricky pop on the latter (also in English).

Soviet Suprem do a neat line in parody of French cliches on French Romace, and the appropriately-named Cliche pull a similar trick. The second selection is much more interesting: Carnival by Mark Berube is a clever standout for its cultural and musical referencing; Finger is On by Jesus Christ Fashion Barbe is sort of Joy Division bottom end/New Order which is at 2.45 is over before it really takes off but interesting nonetheless; Odezenne's darkly broody Rien/Nothing opens with "bitch motherfucker" and goes somewhere into the backstreets of Marseilles after that . . .

Have to say though that over the long haul this double disc regrettably offers fewer surprises and outstanding songs/artists than previous outings.

You could certainly live a happy life without the chintzy show tune by Raphael Gualazzi and many of the more MOR songs (there's a lot of Teflon-pop here), Scarecrow's blues (like the very polite end of Alabama 3) . . .

The French may have given the world the beautifully exact word “ennui”, but musically there's far too much of it here (talkin' to you Coralie Clement with your Un dimanche en hiver/A Sunday in Winter).

So, not enough left-field music from a country which frequently prides itself on its left-leaning history and inclinations.


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