Album Review: Fránçois & The Atlas Mountains – Solide Mirage (2017 LP)

Here’s a fun fact: Other than English, French is the only other language to appear on all government authorised passports worldwide. Why I know that? I have no idea. Here’s another fun fact: The extent of my French vocabulary is limited to what I learnt in Year 8. I remember a handful of words and phrases, and was told by a Frenchman, whilst in Paris, that my French was terrible. One thing I do know about the French is that they have a great knack in making catchy and earworm inducing music. This is no different with the newest album from Fránçois & The Atlas Mountains.

(Author’s note: I have no idea what they’re saying, so bear with me. I’ve Google translated the titles to help a little bit.)

After agreeing to review the album on the back of hearing lead single “Grand Dérèglement (Great Deregulation)”, I was eager to hear what else the band had to offer on Solide Mirage. “Grand Dérèglement” is a little reminiscent of early The 1975, with some hints to Australia’s own Jinja Safari. It’s an upbeat, summery track, with a killer riff through out. “Tendre Est l’Âme (Tender Is The Soul)”, as the title suggests, is a lot smoother during its run, with less dramatic instrumentation than “Grand Dérèglement”. Nonetheless, it’s still a great track.

The album itself comments on the chaotic world that has developed in the past 18 months. With chaos and terror hitting a lot closer to home than he’d have liked, vocalist and lyricist Frànçois Marry felt the need to create an album that confronted and commented on the issues of the immigrant crisis in Calais, generalised fear and the pre-apocalyptic atmosphere. Speaking on the delicate nature of politically charged music, Marry felt it would be inevitable to avoid writing about such issues on Solide Mirage. With that in mind, “Apocalypse à Ipsos (Apocalypse in Ipsos)” showcases a more delicate side to the band, as the softly sung lyrics float throughout the track. As with “Apocalypse à Ipsos”, “1982” is a slow and meandering track, that bounces along without much purpose other than to lead the listener into the heavier material that is to follow.

“Âpres Après (After After)” is a tech-disco banger, drawing comparisons to early material from fellow nationals Phoenix. The mood of the album takes a dramatic turn with “Bête Morcelée (Beast Separated)”. It’s a two-minute punk and grunge onslaught that in no way is expected, but is entirely appreciated. It’s not as easily accessible as some of the earlier tracks, but helps set the album apart just enough that you can understand why Marry has included it on the LP.

Rounding out Solide Mirage is “Perpétuel Été(Perpetual Summer)” and “Rentes Écloses (Annuity Annuities)”. The opening notes of “Perpétuel Été” sounds a little too much like the Microsoft start-up sound, but is a pleasant enough song that this is quickly forgotten. Closer “Rentes Écloses” is a six-minute wandering, swirl of indecisiveness. I can’t be certain whether the track is trying to emulate the rest of the album, or is setting in motion the next train-of-thought Marry will carry into his next album.

While I found it hard to get attached to the album (for vocab reasons), there’s enough here that makes listening to it just interesting enough to make me want to reconsider the depth of my French vocabulary.

Review Score: 7 out of 10.

Solide Mirage is out March 3rd.