Long gone are the deep-rooted associations stemming from my childhood concerning the artistic musical output of “La Province de Quebec”. There was, “jadis”, a great heritage of traditional music in my native territory, and then of new folklore as well, from early traditonal “chansons” to the troubadour icons of the 60’s and 70’s and beyond, see Beau Dommage, Harmonium, Richard Desjardins. There has been, however, an outside perception of bad taste, with a capital B, interweaved with Quebec’s musical identity. It is one associated as this by my 25-45 generation, at least, one of whose extension is perhaps unmeasurable, but is at a bare minimum acknowledged. Child of the 80’s and 90’s, victims of Eric Lapointe, Celine Dion, France D’Amour, or more currently Linda Lemay,Marie-Mai and the like, my fellow adolescent peers and I maybe expected more of a people born brave, intelligent and passionate. This is of course, is merely an opinion. Let’s just say it did not give me anything to look up to or motivate me as an artist. There were always exceptions (Les Colocs anybody?), but never a aggregate representing, and leading, something ground-breaking.
And so I stopped paying attention. My terrible mistake and loss. While i was busy catching on to every new trend band and their possibly (or not) relevant innovations and important contributions to the collective destiny of popular music, while i was busy thinking these were of english language only, by default, some great things were stirring all around me in my native province, unnoticed by my prejudice.
While bands like Arcade Fire or Bright Eyes, to name just two, have etched new paths for the contemporary sound of quality, Quebec has evolved an equally rich an interesting scope of new frontier french music, inticingly interesting and significant. Much like its creators and their humbly segregated cultural reality, it is refreshingly un-ostentatious. Yet it is making waves.
Let me walk you through a few examples of some music you should get to knowing. Yes, it does help if you understand the language, but i don’t think that is a necessity in the appreciation of what i will for now refer to as “the new french-Canadian innovators of popular music”. Genre branding has never been my strong suit.
Stunningly put together semi-orchestral style pop with nothing but strong underlying hard hitting grooves. Drums and rythmic guitars, unexpected twists of language and subtle but memorable melodies. You may start with this song, “Oublie Pas”
Coeur de Pirate
This lovely girl has, for me, achieved what I always felt Feist was just out of reach of accomplishing. That is a shy, childlike music that inspires am fairy-tale-esque freedom, yet is rooted in a strong musical maturity, a statement that makes you dream, songs that are well-crafted yet make your imagination soar. Her voice is original and stellar, her intention is more pure, in my view, and therefore largely more effective, than her English-Canadian counterpart. My favourite track of hers is “Le Long du Large”, a terrifying tale of perished love and alienation. If you’ll forgive the rough translation, here is my english interpretation of the lyric:
Trace on the shoreline, the blood ripped of its soiled battles
by the time made by waves
The ones that push out our memories
On the shores made of Laughter
Made of Laughter
And without drowning
We remain faceless
A mass like any other
living in a mirage
We are separated by the coast
And our wishes bathe in the trenches
created by war
The one that rules the space between me and my heart-beats that scream from here to there
check out the surprisingly uplifting sounding tune here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErfX3G7ehVk
I made this sweet discovery on Jim Corcoran’s CBC radio 2 show, where he initiates English Canada to his choice francophone musical picks.
It was not an easy first listen, which is perhaps why i kept listening. Some of the best discoveries for me have involved a bit of struggle, as in the case with my now full-fledged obsession with Lou Reed; the visions are beyond my scope at the time of confrontation, and that is precisely what we collectively need to impose on ourselves to nurture our evolvement. Francis’ music is sober, cold to the touch but filled with meaning, well imagined. It succeeds somehow at being different within a frame of the habitual.
His newest single, “Ame Soeur” seen here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC2AKjpqAcw
Notable mentions include, but do not end with the following:
Chinatown- infectious, real deal pop pulled off exquisitely by exquisite musicians and writers.
Dumas- superstar by now of “indie-quebecois”, his records are always part moody 60’s pop art languishing, part new aesthetic contemporary pop. I’ve always dug.
I’d have to end with an addendum to my previous criticism of 80’s and 90’s quebecois pop music. There is one personal favourite of mine, a sizeable songwriter and influencer, perhaps even to these young artists today. Daniel Belanger has always been a wonderful crafter of sounds, and songs, with an attention to lyricism not often paralleled in English music. Quebecois are very attached to their (our) language, and show a great respect for it by protecting it and using it beautifully in their speech, and art. My french-canadian songwriter contemporaries are certainly no exception to this rule as well, another shining quality of their craft. Seriously, get on this train I say, you’ll be glad as I am now, that you, I, did.