FrancoFolies: Another Side of French Music

Posted on August 3rd, 2009 by .

Living in Montreal, you quickly come to realize that the term “French music” covers far too broad a base to be one single category. In fact, it’s only as specific as “British rock” or “American folk music.” Read more to find out why French music isn’t just about Celine Dion anymore.

More than just Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, today’s French music is truly experimental. And this week in Montreal, the 21st edition of the FRANCOFOLIES music festival is highlighting, once again, some of the best talent from the four corners of the French-speaking world. The event takes place downtown, around the Place des Arts and the Quartier des Spectacles, and you can catch up some shows both outdoors and inside concert halls and other musical venues, from July 30th to August 9th.

Here are some of my recommendations for this year’s FrancoFolies:

It’s probably one of Montreal’s best rock bands. Their second album, Trompe-l’oeil, was acclaimed by local and international critics, and even received an outstanding 8.2 PITCHFORK REVIEW – the music equivalent of the Holy Grail. The song MONTREAL -40˚C, which includes funny metaphors about Montreal winters (“oh Montreal, you are so cold, you’re a polar bear in the public bus”) quickly became a new urban anthem. It’s a very cute song that turns clichés about Montreal winters into surrealist poetry. Saturday, August 1st, 9pm, at Metropolis.

Like Radiohead, this band has a taste for risk and is never afraid to try out experimental sounds that make their records unforgettable. Dark and mysterious, Karkwa sees each album as a test, welcoming contributions from musicians such as Brigitte Fontaine and Patrick Watson to create poetic, aerial rock with a French twist. Friday, August 7th, 8pm, at Metropolis.

Ariane Moffatt’s music is a mix between Björk and Feist. Her albums all contain catchy but smart pop songs, and she’s not afraid to experiment with cheeky electronic beats. From dreamy melodies to genuine dance tracks, she’s got a unique voice. An amazing team of Montreal-based graphic designers made her recent clip for JEUDI 17 MAI, which has been featured on numerous blogs and websites, including MTV. And you thought Justice’s video for D.A.N.C.E. was crazy? Saturday, August 8th, 9pm, at Metropolis.

4. NOUVELLE VAGUE, version française
You probably already know Nouvelle Vague by now – two French musicians who teamed up with a bunch of up-and-coming female singers and turned classic 80s tracks into bossa-nova club hits – as if the entire cast of Beverly Hills 90210 started singing Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough” on the beach, or New Order’s “Blue Monday” in the Caribbean. Now here’s your chance to hear them perform in French for the first time. Friday, July 31st, 9pm, at Metropolis.

The opposite of her brother Rufus Wainwright’s moody pop songs, Martha Wainright’s music is influenced by folk and rock music. She just released her second album, I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too – Oh, right, I forgot to mention how talented she is as a songwriter. She’s singing in French at the FrancoFolies, a few months before putting together another album, a tribute to French icon Edith Piaf. Wednesday, August 5th, 8pm, at Theatre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts.

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