Out of all the sponsors hosting showcases at CMJ, some of the more interesting ones are the international government agencies that promote artists from their home countries abroad, simply because it’s laughable to think of such a thing existing in the U.S. Cracking the American market is undeniably tough for outsiders, but hey, it’s still worth trying. At the France Rocks showcase presented by Bureau Export, I saw We Were Evergreen, Owlle and Yan Wagner representing Gallic talent at the Union Square Ballroom.
Do you think cute’s a dirty word? Too bad, because We Were Evergreen are seriously adorable—and serious musicians. Sure, a ukulele and glockenspiel might be present onstage, but the London-via-Paris band is unafraid to turn its sweetly nostalgic indie-pop tunes into clouds of swirling synths while maintaining an attention to structure. There’s an energy and element of fun that makes We Were Evergreen something special. When the band finished its set with an extended version of “Vintage Car” that ended with each member jubilantly banging on a drum, the magic was clearly working on the audience.
Owlle stepped in last minute to replace Bertrand Burgalat on the bill. She channels a dark, glamorous vibe also similar to MS MR, though her songs sound more grounded in personal experiences. It was more difficult for Owlle to win over the crowd, but the power of her voice was audible over the people talking in the background. The dreamy electro-pop artist only has one official single out right now, ”Disorder,” but she is someone to keep track of in the future.
Yan Wagner possesses the kind of deep voice that automatically invites comparison to Joy Division. As a producer, his new wave influences are obvious. His compositions build methodically, with layers of synths coasting over programmed beats. Though he was primarily manning an arsenal of samplers, Wagner’s live setup permits him to stroll into the audience on a couple of occasions, which is always a good look, if somewhat disconcerting. With enough innate charm and personality to bounce back from a sound mishap during his last song, he closed out his set with a soaring rendition of the title track from his debut LP, Forty Eight Hours.
Photos by Amanda Stockwell