The heyday of cutesy popular music was no doubt the 1980s. If Jules Winfield in “Pulp Fiction” can identify an unknown — and his hair — by simply invoking A Flock of Seagulls, the hindsight is, ahem, 80/80: The bands of the Reagan Era boasted odd style, instrumentation and paths. And, yet, many of them made great songs. Take the aforementioned A Flock of Seagulls. Its biggest hit, “I Ran,” is catchy and dramatic.
Certainly, every decade has its sore thumbs in the over-the-top department. But, these days, there is a certain segment that has particularly made it, to invoke another ’80s gem, hip to be square. And, as they are well used to, the French have cornered the market on such cheese. But, this fromage is of another ilk altogether and has nothing to do with Bush’s tax relief on imports. These Gallic products are electronically-based tunes which can be found everywhere you turn in the States these days.
If there is one root for this nouvelle vague of French ear candy, it would have to be Daft Punk’s “One More Time.” It’s a classic song yet it’s ridiculous enough to have been played at every high school dance on the planet from 2000 until 2005. As with much modern electronic music, in general, we have Daft Punk to thank for what followed.
The central impresario of the new, goofy movement is Anthony Gonzalez of M83. (The band plays the Ogden Theatre next Monday, April 30.) His most recent album, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” is as lush and expansive as it has been critically-acclaimed. But it’s also absolutely laughable at points. The track, “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” is, well, recounted by a little girl. And about a frog. A frog! By a French guy! You can’t make stuff like this up.
If M83’s ascension to the Pitchfork pinnacle and beyond — “Midnight City” reached a mainstream mountaintop in a recent Victoria Secret ad — isn’t enough evidence, consider the “Drive” soundtrack from last year. Arguably the coolest movie to come along in some time, the integral pop tunes were anchored by Kavinsky’s “Nightcall.” The film wouldn’t have been the same without its ‘80s vibe. (For the record, nobody will blame you for popping some Kavinsky into the cassette player and heading to the 1Up to play Ms. Pac-Man.)
Air released an underrated effort this year, “Le Voyage Dans Le Lune,” that ostensibly was a soundtrack for the landmark 1902 Georges Méliès film of the same name (which, in turn, was the subject of Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” last year). It’s both subtle and purposefully naive. Kanye West and Jay-Z sampled Cassius on the excellent “Why I Love You” from “Watch the Throne.” And, oh yeah, Justice put out a record last year; the duo plays Red Rocks with Passion Pit on Aug. 7. It’s B.Y.O.B. (Bring your own brie.)