Le Couleur: Proven Wrong, Proven Right

I’ve just written a guest article for the BBC about Scandinavian pop music and why those Scandinavians write such darn catchy tunes.

What I discovered was a little stunning (and will be revealed when the article is published – keep ’em peeled, folks), but it at least partially dispelled any fanciful ideas that our Northern Euro-cousins have a special Pop Hook gene.

But it’s so easy to make these generalisations, isn’t it? You know, like how French-language pop is oh-so suave, jaunty and sophisticated.

Well, here’s Le Couleur to – well, prove exactly that.


OK, L’Amour de Jour is so much more than vapid Franco-pop, but it certainly does have a certain sultry slink to it that you couldn’t imagine being present if the song was sung in, say, German.

If, unlike me, you can get past these vague sweeping pre-conceptions, there is a shiny nugget of a  pop song in L’Amour de Jour – one with verve, style and – hell – sophistication.

Maybe those stereotypes are as they are for a reason. Good stuff.

MORE: lecouleurmusic.bandcamp.com

Crane Angels and Umberto Eco’s Chat Shack

Life is punctuated by choices as much as it is by events over which we have no control. Don’t fret – there are no real psychological depths behind that statement. This is ANBAD, not Umberto Eco’s Chat Shack (website coming soon).

Here’s a choice to ponder, though. You want to be in a band. You long to be in a  band. But you also want to be surrounded by your ten very best friends at all time. You have a decision to make.

Do you: a) start an 11-piece band and simply accept that there are too many members for anyone to ever get paid; or b) give up and accept your life of office tedium?

Of course, we all know what happened. Crane Angels didn’t let money get involved. I mean, they certainly haven’t negotiated a payment-per-minute deal – this is the second band in as many days that are releasing a song clocking in around the two-minute mark. Talk about value for money.

Virgin is the kind of song that only a band this size could write. Sure, it may sound like a ditzy, bouncing skip through a summer meadow, but it is actually a song of surprising clarity, depth and vision for a sub-three minute pop song.

Crane Angels are from Bordeaux. You may have heard of the wine. Perhaps that’s how they get paid. Semi-sadly, this song is far too much fun to resort to any ‘Virgin on the ridiculous’-type gags. I suppose such a touching and lively song is a reasonable pay-off. Lovely.

MORE: myspace.com/thecraneangels

Leyli, Beauty and Endless Opportunities For Learning

My online French teacher told me that it was OK, and that means it is true.

She said that learning a foreign language can take whatever form I like – and so, with a staggeringly unoriginal non-deviation from my usual routine, I used this as an opportunity to listen to lots of French language bands.

So imagine my slight disappointment when I later discovered that this is recognised as a great way to learn. That’s not fair! I’m trying to be different, OK, not one of the herd.

Still, before I abandoned this approach as – pah!entirely uncool, I discovered Leyli, whose delightfully decompressed tilt at songwriting calmed my ire to the point of horizontality.

Leyli // Le Bout De Ses Doits

Le Bout De Ses Doits begins at a relaxed pace and slows down as the song progresses. By the end it is barely there, a soft, slight shuffle. Perhaps this is the perfect music for falling to sleep to.

Beauty manifests itself in all sorts of forms, and is experienced by different people in different ways, but when a song like this pokes us in the eye and demands your attention so, a soft sigh is universally exhaled.

Leyli have discovered the secret of musical minimalism – not in the Deep Bolivian House kind of way, but in the careful dispersal of just enough gentle sound to allow songs like Le Bout De Ses Doits to infiltrate the gap between consciousness and semi-consciousness, and permeate your very being with calm.

Relax – and remember: every day is a school day, if you want it to be.


Foreign Office, Johnny Hates Jazz and Balls The Size Of Citrus Fruit

You have to marvel at the chutzpah of some French bands. Either they have balls – or brains – the size of oranges.

The new Kavinsky record takes all the unwanted bits of dreadful 80’s synth-pop and – via alchemy, magic or satanic influence, I’m not sure – has produced a record of languid, neon-lit sexiness.

Embracing the drab and underwhelming past, as bands like Kavinsky have done, is so utterly daring because the margin of error is so va-a-a-a-a-ast.

And yet, listen – the resultant music is as new and beautifully brassy as, you’d like to believe, music could ever be. Enter, poised, and just at the right moment, Foreign Office.

Their song Leaving The House is the result of what would seem to be suicide mission back to the 1980s of Johnny Hates Jazz and Big Country. Remarkably they emerge not only unscathed, but victorious, clutching a song of unusual charm, wit and splendour.

It must have been a long time since those words have been used to describe a song that brazenly brandishes slap-bass, super-soft synths and oil-slick-shiny production as its weapons of choice.

But they fit – for good reason. Despite evidence to the contrary (see opening paragraph), I rarely consider the testicular dimensions of new bands – but Foreign Office are exceptional. Theirs are large. There. I said it. And in their own way, this song is a minor triumph.

Foreign Office // Leaving The House [Warrior One Remixxx]

That is the Warrior One remix of the song, by the way. Whilst excellent, it conveys literally none of the above sentiment. You’ll have to visit their Myspace page to hear the original version. Such is life.


Photography by danielmuhindi.com

RQTN, JMJ, M83, AMA (And More Acronyms)

I once had an argument with a man in a pub about Jean Michel Jarre. Feel free to judge harshly on discovery of such fatuousness.

It all started, as most arguments in pubs do, with a flippant comment on an unimportant topic. The magnifying effects of booze did the rest.

I said that Jean Michel Jarre was the height of electronic music hopelessness – a vacuous whirlwind of 80’s Saturday-teatime TV show soundtracks  hidden behind a preposterous bank of keyboards, stageshows and lasers. To these ears, this still rings fairly true.

The Bar Stranger disagreed furiously, and cited his influence on Orbital, and others, though he may as well have been standing up for Vangelis.

The truth is that ‘JMJ’, as I imagine his bearded fans would call him, produces sub- Kraftwerk nonsense, albeit with a better fireworks show at the end of his gigs.

RQTN, both French and a producer of electronic music, may disagree.

RQTN also makes concept albums – his latest, Decades and Decisions, has a song for various decades from the last 100 years or so. The 80s warrant two, apparently. 1955 – A Shelter For Lovers is the sort of electronic dream music that you’d happily forgotten about, but on sober reflection, wish you hadn’t – it’s lush, trembling and, I daresay, drenched in emotion.

RQTN // 1955 – A Shelter For Lovers

RQTN‘s music would have been decreed fabulously un-cool just a few years ago, but thanks to a slew of excellent synth-pop from the likes of M83, he’s suddenly a musical entrepreneur, mining a seam of forgotten sonic textures and metronomically correct MIDI beats.

Such is the fickle nature of cool. Stop worrying, arguing and procrastinating, and simply listen. Warning: there may or may not be laser lightshow accompaniment.


Evan Voytas, and A Scenester-Baiting Jibe At The XX

Comparing one band with another is a mindless, but pretty much necessary, evil.

As a hack keyboard-basher, I try to avoid it as much as I can, but sometimes you’re left with no other option: how else to describe bande du jour The XX as anything other than ‘drab Zero Seven copyists‘?*

So when I heard Evan Voytas described as ‘the American M83’ by both those who have read his PR company’s press release and those who haven’t, my interest was piqued and repulsed at the same time. This is usually a good sign.

The ingredients are there in the song title alone – vaguely mystical, quasi-pastiche, the whiff of uncool: it’s all there in “I Run With You, Spirit Animal”.

Evan Voytas // I Run With You, Spirit Animal

More importantly though, the song is a stormer. It sounds cheap – by which I mean it is the delicious sound of a young man who has time, talent and no external monetary influences.

Yes, there’s a hint of M83 in there, but any music maker with any sense will have looped their copy of Saturdays = Youth until there was no possibility of the dreamy lusciousness not appearing in their own songs.

Evan Voytas has made songs that are all-revealing, all-enveloping and altogether sharper, and more direct, than a thousand other sonic scrabblers. Or The XX. Wonderful.


*Note: this may or may not be a joke

Photography by Shayne Eastin

>Today’s New Band – Chinatown

ANBAD couldn’t exist without the help of YOU, the delightful, handsome and intelligent reader. And, if you’ve never done it, go crazy: join in and let me know of a great band that will enrichen all our lives (or, failing that, just send me a band with a ridiculous name. That usually does the trick).

Some of the emails are from bands themselves but are serpentine in their pretence that actually it’s a fan of the band that’s emailing and not the drummer’s attempts to drum up publicity for a change.

The difference between these emails and those from an actual fan is that the real fans are always, always derangedly crazy in their bare-faced love of the band in question, and feature! a lot!!! of exclamation!! marks!, resisting any attempts of restraint.

Anyway: I got a lovely email from a lovely man – Julian Fargo, whose sleepy solo songs made him new band o’ the day back in January. He is in another band, Chinatown, and wondered, in unutterably polite tones, whether they might be suitable. The deal was sealed when he said he hoped they ‘would have an important place in the French music scene, between Johnny Hallyday and Justice.’ Perfect.

Chinatown, inevitably, sound like neither, which is something of a shame and a relief. But you will be whistling along to the snappy melody of songs like Apprendre a Danser (Vague schoolboy French translation: Learn to Dance), which is more important.

Du Jazz Avec L’Apocalypse is a tempting enough title in itself; and the twisting and bristling chorus is almost a happy side-effect. It drives and dives directly to your heart. (It’s strange, but singing in French seems to instill a certain Gallic cockiness in any song. I wonder if, to foreign ears, English-language songs have a specific ‘feel?)

Chinatown’s songs are brighter, more free and more twinkly than a handful of stolen diamonds. You’ll realise this straight away – their swinging choruses will grab your hand and force you to dance with them, like a pestering uncle at a family wedding. Good stuff. Listen here!

>ANBAD on Euro-Tour: Cahors Fete de Musique


About this time of year, I keep getting twinges of regret that I’m not at Glastonbury Festival. I’m being stubborn and keep telling myself that I won’t return until the disappearance of the youths who spend hours on their hair and makeup in their tents and then updating their Facebook status to let everyone else know what an AMAZING TIME they’re having, instead of just getting muddy and sweaty and having a good time like the rest of us.

I know I’ll return eventually, but not until the memory of watching a never-ending queue of teenage Peaches Geldofs washing the mud off their designer Wellington Boots under a running tap – and then stepping right back into knee-deep mud, presumably with a view of joining the back of the queue again – has faded.
Still, I managed to find my first festival of then year, in France, and all by mistake, too. I stumbled into Cahors on the Sunday night, expecting little. Most French towns die down to Marie Celeste-type emptiness after 8pm, but on the previous night I’d seen a band playing in the street and wondered if something of interest might be going on.
I was right, and then some: it was the Cahors Fete de Musique – the annual music festival. Somehow, on the previous day’s wander, I’d missed all the huge, yellow, five-foot-high posters advertising the event. ANBAD has its ears to the ground, oh yes.
The old town of Cahors is a beautiful medieval, labyrinthine city, with most buildings older than, say, the whole of the USA. On every tiny street corner there was a band. There was a band in every square, too. And outside the market hall; inside and outside of bars; in the middle of wide roads, shoulder-width narrow passageways – everywhere. And almost all, without exception, were exactly what you’d expect of French rock bands – blander and more inoffensive than, I don’t know, Deep Blue Something.
In fact, if I have brought myself to have hung around to hear the band that was covering Two Princes by The Spin Doctors, I’d have gambled my last centime that Breakfast At Tiffany’s was coming up next. There were so many ‘blands’ it made my head spin – garbled covers of the Rolling Stones (“Street flyin’ man”), A DJ that was playing DJ Otzi megamixes (I never knew there were enough DJ Otzi songs to warrant a megamix), and the main event – a band that sounded like the French Levellers.
I continued walking. The fact that there was a band everywhere meant that quantity was high, even if quality was low; eventually, I wandered down an alleyway, and found a French hip-hop/punk/ska hybrid band that were, in the context of things, pretty good.
The narrow street fairly had sweat running off the narrow, high walls as teens pogoed to the yelpy ‘n’ angry sounds from the MCs, but I stood a little way back, so that they wouldn’t knock my glass of local vin rouge, which in retrospect is awfully middle age/class.
They reaffirmed my faith in live music after the numbness of earlier. French is one of the few languages that suits being rapped perfectly – Welsh is another surprising candidate – and they hauled the crowd into the air again and again, through the strength of their lyricism.
It was a great way to end the night, and try and remember which way out of the maze of streets led back to my tent. So: this band would have been New Band Of The Day, but I’m not brave enough to strike up a conversation with some angry French Hip-hoppers with my basic schoolboy French, so we’ll never know. Instead, here’s some classic-ish French-hop from IAM.

>Today’s New Band – Ödland

>Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Today I feel very hungover. There’s a big part of last night that is a blank, and this time I think I really mean it when I say I’m never drinking again. Every time I type a letter, the noise makes me feel violently sick. I’m never drinking again. Never. My friend Steve – it’s his fault. He shouldn’t have bought me all those drinks. I’m never drinking with Steve again, at least.

That’s my excuse for the tardiness of today’s post out of the way, at least. Today’s New Band – now that’s a different, more problematic issue. If the music is too fast, too weird or too noisy, chunder make occur. On the other hand, those parameters could narrow the options down into James Blunt territory. We must tread carefully.

Perfect for my fragile state is Ödland, a French band who make gentle, lovely music that sometimes whirls off to less gentle, but equally lovely places. Using a piano and a sole , lovely, french voice, Ödland tell tales, sweetly, and simply.

This might be the time to point out that my working knowledge of French is minuscule, and so the stories could be about anything at all to be honest – love, loss or even – ooh, I dont know – bird’s eyes.

But listen to Les Yeux de l’Oiseau and tell me that you don’t hear the sound of mourning – a sad, crooked lament. The language barrier is never a problem: the voice tells the story as much as the words would. Even songs sung in English, like The Caterpillar are drenched in alien charm.

Sur Les Murs de Ma Chambre is a similarly weird, bare and intimate song – delicate, pure and, at times, cute as hell.

So Ödland give us two presents: beautiful songs and a lesson for life – that a language barrier only exists if you want it to. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – The Wendy Darlings

>A quick glance at the charts is enough to confirm the feeling that most pop music is awful. Over-hyped nonentity Lady Gaga is number one, with her entirely forgettable half-effort Poker Face. Here it is, if you can stand another lumpen slab of generic electro-pop sung by a Christina Aguilera tribute act.

25 years ago, Black Lace also hit number one with Agadoo, which is almost universally recognised as the worst song of all time. I simply insist that you listen to it if you’ve never heard it before. Here’s the interesting bit though: as will-sappingly dreadful as Agadoo is, it’s still being played at school discos and weddings, and will be forever.

Poker Face will be forgotten by this time next week. Perhaps bad pop can be enjoyed after all. It just has to inhabit a specific world of dreadfulness. Today’s New Band, The Wendy Darlings, aren’t dreadful, are entirely enjoyable, and as such, must now console themselves, as they can never be a novelty pop band.

In songs like Eins Zwei, we quickly learn that The Wendy Darlings are carefree but careful – a slender distinction. Their songs buzz with happiness; entirely un-po-faced and fun. But My Friend Ray has that mid-90’s tuneful naivety about it which suggests they know their way around a melody and aren’t afraid to get serious about the important stuff.

Predictably, Enormous Pop is aptly named and as joyful as a kids’ birthday party around the time mum brings out the jelly and ice cream.

So, the dirty truth is that Agadoo is entirely preferable to the majority of pop music. The Wendy Darlings are entirely preferable to the majority of yelpy, poppy rock, due to the absence of poseur-seriousness and the pushing of fun to the fore. They’re a blast, and neither push pineapples nor grind coffee. Listen here!