La Féline - Triomphe (Kwaidan Records)

La Féline – Triomphe (Kwaidan Records)

French rock is like English wine

It’s not quite what John Lennon meant when he tossed out that bon mot but, since England produces some spectacularly good grog these days, Agnès Gayraud aka La Féline should be delighted. That’s an A+ from the old goat, deceased though he may be.

Triomphe is very chic, very stylish, somewhat playful…exceedingly French. Before it seems overwhelmingly lazy to simply note the nationality of Ms Gayraud and stick a couple of Gallic cliches in front of it – this record could really only sound more French if you strapped an accordion to its arse and marched it up and down the Champs-Élysées. It is, however, as modern as it is classic – no silly museum piece. Think Nouvelle Vague with added shimmering electronics rather than Johnny Hallyday. It’s also most definitely pop rather than rock, which it turns out has a touch more significance than whether one’s amps are turned up to 11 or not.

The music that has come out of France since the late 1960s has tended to be that pop – and more recently electronica – rather than rock. That was true even in those early revolutionary times infested with global hippies. When the rest of the world was growing ill-advised ‘taches and soundtracking most of their goings on with increasingly noisy guitars, Paris was chucking out stuff by Serge Gainsbourg and the like. And that defiant approach informs the whole of this album. There is a stubbornness which means Gayraud also elects to sing in her native language which, absurdly, is quite brave. Long seen as an open invitation to commercial suicide, it takes nothing away from the beautiful songs here. A track like “Samsara” has vocal not unlike Karin Dreijer and the delicate aspects of her voice, if anything, gain by being in a not entirely familiar language. It’s chilly and rather haunting stuff. Sometimes this time of year needs to be ameliorated with a bit of musical warmth but a bit of iciness never goes amiss.

Triomphe is a marvellous beginning to 2018. It’s mature and sophisticated without losing a playful edge. It has glacial electronics on ‘Trophee‘ yet honking horns on ‘La Royaume‘. It’s class without being po-faced. One for fans of Feist and the like. Or perhaps PJ Harvey with the appropriate hangover for this time of year. A little more relaxed, no less talented.

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