The French indie scene is thriving and its groups are making inroads into international markets. Many of the bands below had been around for years, touring Europe with a faithful following, before being ‘discovered’ by English-speaking music lovers while others have garnered international recognition with their debut albums. Whichever camp they fall into, you ought to give their records a listen now if not sooner.
Formed in Biarritz in 2010, La Femme are France’s leading exponents of psych-punk rock. Their debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin (2013) earned them a Victoires de la Musique award for Best Debut Album in February 2014 and their latest offering, Mystère (2016), peaked 25 places higher on the French albums chart at number eight. The lead single Sphynx is totally hypnotic (as is its music video which is basically a hardcore version of Katy Perry’s Dark Horse) and the track below, Tatiana, is a brilliant, up-tempo piece of psychedelic rock.
The former frontman of La Rochelle punk act, Asyl, Lescop struck out on his own in 2012 with his self-titled debut album. Signed to the up-and-coming Franco-Anglo indie label Pop Noire, his revitalized cold wave tunes have a way of getting under your skin. The opening track of Lescop (2012), La Forêt, for example, is as infectious today as it was five years ago. His long-awaited second album, ECHO (2016), doesn’t disappoint. Standout singles from it include David Palmer and the chillingly beautiful Echo.
Hailing from the seaside town Caen in Normandy, Granville is a trio whose upbeat indie pop is influenced by French music of the 1960s including Serge Gainsbourg, France Gall, and Françoise Hardy. To date, they have only released one album, Les voiles (2013), from which the sweetest records are Jersey and Le Slow. At the minute, Melissa, Sofian, and Arthur are focusing on solo projects or working with other groups but they’ve left the possibility open for a reunion and follow-up album.
Dandies released their first self-titled EP back in 2011 and their music is inspired by the likes of The Doors, Kings of Leon, and Arctic Monkeys. However, the band from Le Mans came to the attention of most English-speaking listeners when Pete Doherty appeared on the track L Comme Liaison on their debut album Illusion Et Imparfait (2013). Since then, they have released three more EPs, including And Jojo Left the Ship (2015), which you can listen to in full on their YouTube page. Their most recent offering, Evocati (2016), contains the atmospheric Artifice.
Equally deserving of a spot on our list of notable French electro bands, M83 have been around since 2001 but hit the big time with their sixth album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011) which contained the platinum single Midnight City, which you may know (but not admit to knowing) as the theme tune for the British reality TV show Made in Chelsea. Fans had to wait half a decade for their follow-up album, Junk (2016), the best tracks off of which are Do It, Try It, a throwback to ‘90s electronic, and Solitude, a piano/synth ballad.
Technically, Fauve isn’t a band but a collective of musicians and videographers, formed in Paris in 2010. Their performances, which have been a huge hit on the French festival scene in recent years, combine spoken word and musical accompaniment. They released their two-part album VIEUX FRÈRES in 2014, which contains an impressive 22 tracks including TALLULAH and BLIZZARD (which appeared on an earlier EP of the same name). They followed this in April 2016 with a live album.
Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains
Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains have put out five critically acclaimed albums since they formed in 2003, starting with The People To Forget (2006), a collection of mostly live recordings. This Franco-British group sing in both English and French and offer a unique combination of indie pop and afrobeat genres. Two tracks to listen out for off their latest album Solide Mirage, released in March 2017, are Grand Dérèglement and Tendre Est l’Âme. La Vérité from Piano Ombre (2014) is another to check out.
Luke have been around on the French indie scene for almost two decades, having formed in Aquitaine in 1998. The band, known best for their live performances, has seen numerous changes in membership over this time and its sound has evolved accordingly, though they always lean to the rock side of indie. The best song on their latest album, Pornographie (2015), is the intense yet catchy J’veux être un héros.
Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens is actually not a band but the stage name of the multi-talented singer, songwriter, and producer Héloïse Letissier. She was signed to the French indie record label Because Music in 2012 and her only full album to date, Chaleur Humaine (2014), went to number two in the French and British album charts. Its lead single, Sainte Claude, won Music Video of the Year at the Victoires de la Musique awards in 2015, where Letissier also won Female Artist of the Year. At the NME Awards in 2017, she came away with the Best International Female award and Best Track for Tilted.
Formed in Versailles in 1999, Phoenix found international success with the release of their fourth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix in February 2009. Its lead single, 1901, an ode to Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, became one of the summer’s biggest hits. Tracks like Lisztomania also lent their weight to the record winning the Best Alternative Music Album at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Bankrupt! (2013) followed and was comparably well received. In November 2016, they announced their first live show in three years and a new album is expected in the near future.