An Intro to Francophone Music with Hubert Lenoir

With his new LP “PICTURA DE IPSE: Musique Directe” out now, the experimental musician made a playlist of his favorite tracks by French and Québécois artists.
An Intro to Francophone Music with Hubert Lenoir

With his new LP “PICTURA DE IPSE: Musique Directe” out now, the experimental musician made a playlist of his favorite tracks by French and Québécois artists.

Words: Mike LeSuer

photo by Daniel Dugas

September 20, 2021

From listening to just about any one of the 20 tracks on Hubert Lenoir’s new album PICTURA DE IPSE: Musique Directe, you’ll likely trust the Québec artist to give you a deep and diverse list of artists who’ve had a major impact on himself and the greater Québécois music scene. The LP merges pop, jazz, electronic sounds, hip-hop, and really most other genres in ways that are never not surprising, Lenoir’s often-warped mostly-French-language vocals remaining the only constant throughout the record. His oddball style understandably caught the attention of fellow Canadian artist Mac DeMarco, while it’s a bit more difficult to imagine what inspired The Strokes to enlist Lenoir for their 2019 New Years Eve show.

With his roots deeply embedded in the province’s music scene, we asked Lenoir to put together a playlist of some of his favorite Francophone tracks ranging from French classics by Serge Gainsbourg and Christophe to deep cuts from Lenoir’s Canadian scene courtesy of CRABE and Bonnie Banane, both of whom feature on PICTURA DE IPSE (out last Friday on the incredible pairing of Terrible and Worse Records). You can stream the full playlist below, and read on to find out who the G.O.A.T. of Québécois music is (according to Lenoir, at least—it isn’t entirely clear whether the province has reached a consensus). 

​​Robert Charlebois, “Fais toi z’en pas”

This, my friends, is the G.O.A.T. of Québécois music, and this is one of his best songs. This transcends language to me. He’s singing in joual, which is a form of slang that is very commonly used today but was very subversive when the song came out. The lyrics are written by Réjean Ducharme, a legendary author in Francophone literature.

Bonnie Banane, “Les Papillons”

This is a song off the last record from Bonnie Banane (who features on my new album). The song isn’t a single or anything, but it’s just the best thing ever. The drum beat is insane and the synths and harmonic progression feel like bagpipes. It’s really good!

Christophe, “Mama”

A rock track. A good shuffle beat by an awesome French artist from France. Christophe is more well-known for his softer songs and ballads, but this one is my favorite of his. The track has this satanic vibe to it, and the best part is that it features Jean-Michel Jarre on bass and the lyrics. Before becoming the father of electronic music, Jean-Michel Jarre was working mostly as a lyricist for other artists in the early ’70s. Weird for somebody that went on to do only instrumental music for the rest of his life.

CRABE, “8008 rue des Lombards”

A song off their last album Sentient, which I worked on with them. CRABE is an experimental punk band from Montréal, and they feature on my new album too. This song is, for me, one of their best because it really portrays what the essence of their work is about. You have to listen to believe it!

Rowjay, “Astral Drill”

Rowjay is a rapper from Saint-Leonard, Montréal—he released this drill track last year that I really really like.

Serge Gainsbourg, “Aéroplanes”

Awesome track from his album concept L’homme à la tête de chou. Insane chords and synth work.

Elle Barbara’s Black Space, “Peach Purée”

From Montréal. Amazing track. I love the vibraphone. It brings me joy anytime I hear it.

Jean-Pierre Ferland, “Le Chat du Café des Artistes”

Iconic track from the iconic album Jaune. Featuring Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel) on bass and David Spinozza (Paul Simon) on guitar. This album is a cult classic in Québec. And I think Beck once sampled this or something [editor’s note: Beck produced Charlotte Gainsbourg’s cover of the track—still cool!]…anyway, the beat of the song is really hard and the album was a game-changer in Québec culture.

Hamza feat. Damso, “God Bless”

Song from two Belgian rappers, Hamza and Damso. It’s a huge track, minimal beat, huge low end. 

Brigitte Fontaine, “Patriarcat”

A song by French artist Brigitte Fontaine where she talks about patriarchy on top of a MOOG-filled groove. The song was revolutionary when it came out in the ’70s.