Culture

A Playlist of Cool and Sexy French Music to Help You Become Sexy and Cool

To celebrate the release of their new EP, Parisian band Film Noir put together a playlist spanning decades of the best music from their home country.
06 August 2020, 9:14am
film noir band
Photo courtesy of Film Noir 

French people are sexy and cool, and liking French stuff is sexy and cool. So, to help you become both of those things, we asked Film Noir – a Bukowski-inspired, romantic rock band from Paris – to put together a guide to history’s best French pop music.

The good news is that you can put this Spotify playlist on at the next party you go to and pretend you found every song yourself, like some kind of cool, sexy crate digger. The better news is that, as soon as you’re done listening, you can check out Film Noir’s EP, “Tendrement”, right here.

PHILIPPE KATERINE – “AU PAYS DE MON PREMIER AMOUR”

Philippe is one of French pop’s most formidable eccentrics. He’s always reinventing himself, and his live shows are legendary – poetic, daring and funny. But because he’s such a character it can be easy to forget the fact he’s also a fantastic songwriter. This is a deeply tender song about his long-lost first love, depicted for some reason as a country.

What kind of music: Pop.
What era were they biggest in: Present day.
Another great song by them:Parivélib”.

BORIS VIAN – “JE BOIS”

Known for his surreal novels – likely inspired by the peyote-fuelled parties he threw as a teenager - Boris Vian was also a great composer and singer. A key figure in Paris’ dazzling postwar jazz scene, he was a notoriously heavy drinker (“Je Bois” is a three-minute explanation of why exactly he likes getting pissed”) and inspired a young Serge Gainsbourg to start writing songs, back when the future Mr Birkin was a failing painter making a living as a lounge pianist.

What kind of music: Jazz, chanson.
What era were they biggest in: The 1950s.
If you're going to buy one album: The French Jazz Legend (Remastered), a selection of his best songs, remastered.
Another great song by them: “J’suis snob”.

ZOUZOU – “TU FAIS PARTIE DU PASSÉ”

Zouzou is a 1960s icon. She hung out with all the big hitters – your Beatles, your Dylans, your Kinks – and was a multi-talented artist in her own right. She’s probably best known for starring in the 1972 French film Love in the Afternoon, but also released an album, L’intégrale, full of songs waiting to soundtrack future Wes Anderson movies.

What kind of music: Pop.
What era were they biggest in: The 1960s.
If you're going to buy one album: L’intégrale.
Another great song by them: Il est parti comme il était venu

JEANNE MOREAU – “INDIA SONG”

Jeanne Moreau may well be the most important actress in the history of French cinema – anyone directed by Antonioni, Godard, Truffaut and Orson Welles is assured of their place in history – but she was also blessed with a unique voice, put to fine use in this yearning, playful and quietly epic song.

What kind of music: Chanson.
What era were they biggest in: The 1960s.
If you're going to buy one album: Le Tourbillon De La Vie
Another great song by them: “Jamais je ne t’ai dit que je t’aimerai toujours'“

VÉRONIQUE SANSON – “MARIA DE TUSHA”

Véronique Sanson is a fantastic French songwriter. One of my favourite things about Sanson is her weird style of singing, all bold and yelpy and peculiar. Think of her as our Kate Bush, with a head of equally fabulously feathered hair.

What kind of music: Pop.
What era were they biggest in: The 1970s.
If you're going to buy one album: Vancouver. Another great song by them: “De l’autre côté de mon rêve”.

PATRICK COUTIN – “J’AIME REGARDER LES FILLES”

Coutin studied Philosophy and Visual Arts, like many of us in Film Noir, so we’re sort of kindred spirits in that respect. Also, this 1981 song has been a mainstay in clubs ever since its release, which will make total sense to you as soon as you listen to it.

What kind of music: Rock.
What era were they biggest in: The 1980s
Another great song by them: “Fais moi jouir”.

MODERNE - “INDICATIF”

In the 1980s, French pop music was overwhelmingly dreadful – until the collective known as Des Jeunes Gens Mödernes came along and singlehandedly saved the country from international embarrassment.

What kind of music: Cold wave.
What era were they biggest in: 1980s.

STARSHOOTER – “BETSY PARTY”

LA SOURIS DÉGLINGUÉE – “JAURÈS STALINGRAD”

Just some solid French punk from the 1970s. Enjoy.

What kind of music: Punk.
What era were they biggest in: 1970s.

MAGMA – “SPIRITUAL”

Yes, prog-rock has historically suffered from an association with flutes and grown men in wizard costumes, but put your preconceptions to the side for a minute. Magma have been foraging unexplored musical territories since the end of the 1960s, and have discovered some stuff well worth listening to along the way.

What kind of music: Prog rock.
What era were they biggest in: The 1990s.
If you're going to buy one album: Kobaia. Another great song by them: “Udu kudu”.

JACQUELINE TAIEB – “LA COEUR AU BOUT DES DOIGTS”

The most-excellently produced artist of the French 1960s pop scene – no more, no less – and also a 10/10 songwriter.

What kind of music: Pop.
What era were they biggest in: The 1960s.
If you're going to buy one album: Jacqueline Taieb. Another great song by them: “7 heures du matin”.

TAXI GIRL – “CHERCHEZ LE GARÇON”

This was a huge tune in the 1980s, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has heard the music of the 1980s. But it holds up even now, benefitting from how stripped back and straightforward it is, all centred around that excellent riff.

What kind of music: Pop / Cold wave.
What era were they biggest in: The 1980s
Another great song by them: “Jardin chinois”.

UTO – “THAT ITCH”

A couple who live in a self-built music studio in a forest, UTO is one of France’s most exciting new electronic music projects. It all sounds very original and a little bit sombre, but in a good way. The exact kind of music you’d imagine being crafted in a cabin in the woods.

What kind of music: Moaning pop / Barking trip-hop.
What era were they biggest in: Present day.
Another great song by them: “Untitled #1”.

ALAIN BASHUNG – “VERTIGE DE L’AMOUR”

Alain Bashung is widely revered as the most important French rock musician after Serge Gainsbourg, and has been the voice of generation after generation of Parisian romantics. This song – his biggest hit in France – is an emotional knock-out.

What kind of music: Rock.
What era were they biggest in: The 1990s.
Another great song by them: “Elvire”.

J.C. SATÀN – “I WON’T COME BACK”

J.C. Satàn are a Paris-based band making music that feels like the start of a big night out. The production is raw and the guitars sound like buzzsaws – two must-haves for any decent rock band.

What kind of music: Rock.
What era were they biggest in: Present day.
If you're going to buy one album: Centaur Desire.
Another great song by them: “Lies”.

JUNIORE – “EN SOLITAIRE”

Juniore does that tricky thing of sounding almost throwback, but also completely and utterly current. It’s beautifully melancholic – like 60s French pop haunted by some supernatural awareness of how terrible everything is going to become in the decades to follow.

What kind of music:
What era were they biggest in:
If you're going to buy one album:  Another great song by them:

FILM NOIR – “BRÛLANT”

Yours truly. It feels weird describing ourselves – this isn’t a job interview – so we’re handing over to a VICE staffer:

“Brûlant is a song that makes me miss guitar music – something the UK has been roundly terrible at for at least as long as Spotify has been around. Maybe it’s because the words are in French – meaning they’re inherently romantic, so help to inspire rose-tinted memories – but this song instantly transports me back to one of the best sets I’ve ever seen, Bloc Party at Reading Festival, drenched in reverb, feedback and something close to the cool and sexy vibe every single member of Film Noir gives off in this music video.”