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"A petit feu is an outstanding release"

"A petit feu is an outstanding release"

Veteran French singer-songwriter Ben Popp recently self-released A Petit Feu, his most recent EP, via his own Le Chant Des Possibles label. The new 6-song EP continues to showcase his penchant for super-catchy power-pop and swaggering British Invasion-style rock. Additionally, Ben sings in French which lends a classy, mysterious and melancholic air to the music for many of his foreign listeners. However, the clever riffs, driving rhythms and poppy melodies do not get lost in translation, as you will find yourself humming along and tapping your toes in total agreement.


An american review

Opening the EP is the jangly cascading guitars, swells of thick vintage organ and propulsive rhythm of “Rester Jeune” which translates to “Forever Young” in English. Lyrically, the song is a relatable rumination on society’s pressure on us to be young and fresh while not having any control over the matter.

The breezy “Les langues étrangères” follows with laid-back yet playful melodies, highly melodic guitar runs and a wire brush-led shuffling drum beat. The standout track sounds decidedly French and cosmopolitan-cool like some long lost late 70’s or early 80’s folk-pop nugget discovered while crate-digging in a dusty vinyl bin in the back of an old record store. Those are the best kind of discoveries and this disc could be one for many new listeners.

Next, “Ton Silence” (“Your Silence”) is built upon heavily processed guitars that create a hypnotic yet funky atmosphere that is both psychedelic and danceable; sounding like Disco music played by Pink Floyd. Lyrically, Popp plays off the old adage that “silence speaks louder than words” as musically, the song showcases the depth and ingenuity of his songwriting ability.

The title track, “A Petit Feu” doesn’t quite translate as the meaning of the lyrics provided by Ben strangely has something to do with “slowly cooking somebody”. Now, I’m not sure if he really means to advocate cannibalism so it’s a good thing the bright, New Wave synth melodies and upbeat tempo are charming and catchy enough to forget what is or isn’t being said. “Tout est éphémère” - or “Nothing Lasts Forever” in English - is a much too-short folk-tinged pop-rock tune with a jaunty acoustic guitar-led rhythm that belies the melancholic melodies and lyrical sentiment at its core.

Before you are ready, the EP closes out with the appropriately-titled track, “Lolita”, as Popp pays musical tribute to Nabokov's classic book of the same name with slinky blues-rock riffs complete with smoldering guitar leads throughout and a fast-paced vocal cadence for another standout moment.

With his outstanding latest release, the A Petit Feu EP, French power-pop purveyor Ben Popp has created a catchy and cohesive set of pop-leaning rock songs with a nostalgic yet modern sound that defies language barriers.

Reviewed by: Justin Kreitzer

However, a fourth phrase that’s a bit more applicable, “c’est magnifique”

However, a fourth phrase that’s a bit more applicable, “c’est magnifique”

In the interest of full disclosure, it needs to be noted that this reviewer only knows three phrases in French, “Oui,” “je suis desole” and “je t’aime.” None of these are particularly useful in discussing the 2014 album A petit feu by Ben Popp. There is however, a fourth phrase that’s a bit more applicable, “c’est magnifique,” as this six song EP truly is magnificent. It is however, entirely in French which obviously creates a bit of a language barrier problem for some. But even if you can’t understand the lyrics, the strength of the music itself is reason enough to dig into this collection of songs.


However, a fourth phrase that’s a bit more applicable, “c’est magnifique”

An american review

Again, because this reviewer is not fluent in French, the lyrics can’t be analyzed for their content. In terms of anything involving the vocals there’s only two points that can be discussed and addressed for the average non-French speaking listener. The first is that Popp’s voice is a bit thin. His voice isn’t very powerful and there are times on some of the harder arrangements where he sounds a little out of place. His softer singing could be compared to a French version of Al Stewart. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing by any means as his voice is still melodious. This also ties into the second point in that his accent is intoxicating. This is obviously a quality that will vary from person to person but in general, the French accent is known for its lovely cadence and tones; things that are in full effect here.

The EP starts with “Rester jeune” and we’re presented with an arrangement of acoustic guitars upfront with an electric picking away in back and coming upfront during the chorus. The pronounced bassline matches well with the brisk drum performance to create a fantastic rhythm that throws in some nice starts and stops later in the track. Some of the subtle touches are the best part of the piece such as the organ like keyboards that fill out the backing track and the vocal layering which accentuates Popp’s singing enough to make it slightly varied.

“Les langues etrangeres” has a much calmer feel to it, due in no small part to the acoustic guitars and the softer shuffle of the drums. Instead of an organ sound the keyboards have a chiming nature to them, something that again, relates back to the calmer tone of the track. The interesting part about this atmosphere is how the lead guitar interacts with it. Occasional guitar parts appear, playing lines that interact with the rest of the track before ending and allowing the song to continue at its pace. The playing here is measured without being too overbearing and eventually leads into a strong solo to help give the song some extra substance.

In a tonal shift, “Ton silence” is a bit darker, relying on a lot of guitar effects and softer, slightly more ominous keyboards to establish its mood. This is one of those occasions where the vocals don’t necessarily mesh with the atmosphere but the song still works very well given the unique arrangement and the exceptional musicianship. The uniqueness of it is further accentuated by the following title track, a more traditional riff rocker with heavier instrumentation. Both of them are played exceptionally well and in this juxtaposition, show how easily Popp can change his style of playing.

In a track that’s surprisingly short but also remarkably well performed, “Tout est ephemere” relies on the interplay between two acoustic guitars to create its sound. The song is mixed so that one guitar appears in the left audio channel and the other in the right. Both of them are playing unique parts and the performances are fantastic to listen to both in how the combine, and how they sound individually.

The final track, “Lolita” ends things on a perfect note, harkening back to the harder sounds of the title piece and the pronounced bassline of the opening number. Nothing is held back here as the thumping bass and amazing guitar solos rip away in order to close out the EP in the best way possible.

Six tracks, each of them distinctly memorable, entertaining, and engaging. A petit feu is a quality record that is fully capable of transcending any language barrier and delivering wonderful musical performances. Ben Popp is a very talented songwriter whose skills should not be known only to his native country. It can take a bit of effort for the average music fan to digest music that’s not in their native language, but this EP is worth pushing yourself towards and enjoying its remarkable quality.

Artist: Ben Popp
EP Title: A petit feu
Review by: Heath Andrews
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

A classy, progressive-tinged rock album

A classy, progressive-tinged rock album

Ben Popp’s latest release, Demain est une fete, is a classy, progressive-tinged rock album with French charm and catchy rhythms throughout. The simplistic percussion, guitar work, and melodic sounds are poignant and enjoyable. The pleasant acoustic and electric guitar renderings are ideal for the adult contemporary pop genre. In short, the music is varied and catchy. There is a nice mix of lighter melodies with several doses of heavier material that take on a more rock-focused approach. The songs provide all the elements of a great listen including great instrumentation, excellent vocal deliveries, and catchy melodies that are universal. Ben’s somewhat reserved vocals are perfect for the instrumentation. There is absolutely nothing amiss on Demain est une fete. In fact, it is one of the best music releases to come out of France.


A classy, progressive-tinged rock album
Artist: Ben Popp
Album: Demain est une fete
Review by Matthew Forss

The French pop/rock songs of Ben Popp are catchy, folksy, and steeped in swirling rhythms of nostalgic rock, blues, and soul. On Demain est une fete, which means ‘tomorrow is a party,’ Ben is a singer and plays drums, acoustic and electric guitar, bass, cajon, and melodica. Ben is joined by Christian Pruneau on lead guitar, Pierre Walther on rhythm guitar, Eric Parmantier on bass and lead guitar, and Jean claude Lorenzino on lead guitar.

“Besoin De Quelqu’un” opens with a spritely, yet slightly bluesy, up-tempo guitar line with a bit of percussion and Ben’s French progressive rock vocals. The music contains a bit of grungy rock guitar embellishments that are allowed to showcase some of their potential during the choruses. The steady beat is interrupted by grungy guitars, acoustic-like guitar stylings, and more adventurous rock guitar solos that are more Southern rock than French rock. Still, Ben hits all the right chords here with quaint vocals, a short, but catchy song, and the makings for a top ten contemporary hit.

“Luna” begins with a breezy opening that is as fresh as an island breeze with a jaunty, Latin or Mediterranean flavor. The sweeping melody is punctuated with glittering guitar strumming and light percussion. The swishy percussion is accented by the slightly jazzy feel of the guitar stylings. The main song style and musical progression is more indicative of the music from Latin America or Spain, but that does not negatively affect the song’s outcome.

“Le Sage Partage” opens with a danceable guitar rhythm and soft vocals with a degree of electronic embellishments in the form of soft whispers. The vocals are superimposed over the steady percussive beat and electric guitar throughout. However, the acoustic guitar at the beginning of the song represents a light and airy ambiance. Notably, the acoustic guitar merges with the electric guitar as the song progresses and the electric guitar eventually wins out by the end of the song.

“Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je Mentais” opens with a swishy percussive beat and steady guitar strumming that is staccato-like. There are a few opening piano notes that set a ballad-esque tone overall. However, when the percussion kicks in and electric guitar wails away, the song possesses an almost classic rock edge. Nevertheless, the French suavity is still inherent throughout the song.

“Elle Disait Je T’aime” begins with a steady, acoustic guitar beat with an accompanying percussion set with cymbals and taps. Also, a horn-like sound emerges from the background with a sort of oboe-like tone of the melodica. Ben’s vocals are accompanied by echoing guitar strums and an effervescent pop and folk vein. There are even back-up type vocals in parts that are probably layered lead vocals.

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

Matthew Forss

Since 2000, Wisconsin-based Matthew Forss has been actively involved in the ‘global’ world music scene as a music journalist for the Edmonton, Canada-based Inside World Music www.insideworldmusic.blogspot.com. Matthew holds an MFA in creative writing and is also a world music consultant, co-producer, and album compiler. Some of his music/book reviews and essays have been published in Songlines, Ethnomusicology, African Music, cultural encyclopedias, among others. Matthew’s favorite interviews include Yulduz Usmanova (Uzbekistan), Tinariwen (Mali), and Hevia (Spain). He diligently maintains his ever-growing collection of music from every country in the world, while looking forward to discovering (and reviewing) new music.



Gainsbourg Re-incarnate !

Gainsbourg Re-incarnate !

Gainsbourg Re-incarnate!

Connexions Ben Popp I first met Ben Popp on MySpace. I was attracted to one of his album cover - but he's French, and they have this non-evolving "tune" which is deemed typical and synonymous especially when its linked to simplicity in progression, in an atypical folklorique beat. When you've lived long enough in France, you tend to pick that 'tune' in your head, and you can identify what is and what isn't French.

We communicated, and ... over the years, I listened to his works. I can say that Ben Popp has matured in his style - his voice especially one would say akin to Serge Gainsbourg, the slur, the lyrics are a play of words.

Will feature the Interview in AainaA Insight!, and will update more of him here.

Aainaa Writer, Information Communications Consultant
Malaysia

download.com

a review on download.com

Here's a cool cd. A laid back tune with a sensual voice accompanying music with a wide ranging set of atmospheres. Sometimes it tends towards rock' n'roll, sometimes towards pop music or reggae, but its always hybrid. The French singing also reinforces the feeling one has of listening to something romantic whereas Ben Popp could be whispering into your ear horrible things about ordinary men's unhappy loves.


Même pas peur
 
Même pas peur
 
There's a desire to dig into several corners of music even if this long cd remains coherent and marked by a style that the author found somewhere between easy listening and alternative rock. It starts with Romeo and Juliets love to end with the acknowledgment that we all are children of beatitude. Thus, even if it is obvious that this cd is meant to attack our senses with its rampant sensuality, it is also pretty sure to shake a few of our neurones by hooking us to it's efficient melodies.

It is a very minimalist and intimate cd, at times surprising, for which comparisons sometimes lack, and which subscribes to the line of French sung songs, with a bit of glamour, a bit of sadness and melancholy, sometimes even some seriousness. You will hook up to it or not, for sure, because you will enter in its world otherwise it will remain tightly shut.
JPM (Music review)
Review

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