March 1999
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Various Artists - Pop Romantique (Emperor Norton)
April March - Chrominance Decoder (Ideal/Mammoth)

Reviews by Courtney Knopf

I have a terrible weakness for kitschy cute European (especially French) disco pop. Even though I don’t understand most of what’s being said, I can’t help but bop my head from side to side and imagine myself traipsing down the Champs Elysses straight out of a Truffaut film.

Emperor Norton Records seem to be duking it out with Chicago’s Minty Fresh label over who has the cutest pop bands on their roster. Home to bands like The Fantastic Plastic Machine and Arling & Cameron, they’ve built up a reputation for fun pop. Their newest release, Pop Romantique, is a tribute of sorts to French pop classics as performed by a wide variety of modern indie artists like Ivy, The Apples In Stereo and Magnetic Fields.

Serge Gainsbourg, who for many served as an introduction to 1960’s French pop, has four songs covered on this collection. Ivy serves up a breathy version of "L’anamour" while singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding adeptly emotes his way through "Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais." Françoise Hardy, who’s quiet lilt is also a cornerstone of French pop of the 60’s, collaborates with the members of Air on an original tune called "Jeanne." Lloyd Cole sings "Si Tu Dois Partir," which is the French translaton of a Bob Dylan song while Colorado’s Apples In Stereo wrote an original called "Avril En Mai."

At first glance, American chanteuse April March doesn’t seem to be the most likely candidate to offer up a platter of frothy French pop, but her first domestic release, Chrominance Decoder proves otherwise. March, born Elinor Blake in New York City, has a sweet womanchild voice that bubbles forth like an uncorked bottle of champagne. She sings both in French (which she has been speaking since age 3) and English, and her music has a definite sense of wry humor to it. No surprise since this is the woman who co-wrote the classic "Don’t Whiz on the Electric Fence" for Ren & Stimpy (and was also an animator for the show).

The music slips in and out of dreamy trip hop (including remixes by Ideal label mates, The Dust Brothers) and 60’s French pop, reminiscent of Serge Gainsbourg and Françoise Hardy. "Sugar" is a deceptively upbeat tune about being left by a lover, while the title track is a slightly unflattering look at someone being made famous by television. "Garden Of April," Mignonette" and "No Parachute" round out the adorably cute American In Paris vibe that this album gives off.

Chrominance Decoder- [89%]
Pop Romantique- [95%]

Buy Chrominance Decoder at Amazon.com!
Buy Pop romantique at Amazon.com!

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