Music from My Trip to Europe

João Donato – “A Rã” – (1971)

Yes, João Donato is Brazilian and Brazil isn’t even in Europe. This week I was in Spain – a day in Madrid and three days in Barcelona. I also realize that this song is an example of Bossa Nova, which is Brazilian music. However, while in Barcelona I visited the “Harlem Jazz Club” – which featured live Bossa Nova music, which is more or less Brazilian jazz. I’m still confused as to why they felt they needed to tack on “Harlem,” but whatever. So, for the sake of whatever, I felt I should feature some Bossa Nova for Barcelona.

Daft Punk – “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” – (2001)

Yeah, the video here is of Daft Hands – the viral version of someone who has written all of the song’s lyrics on their fingers and moves their hands like they’re doing karaoke. This was the song that got my hooked on electronica. Daft Punk is amazing, but for whatever reason (read: success), hardcore electronica fans tend to mock them. “It’s sooo lame that they’re successful and make money.” Whatever. Kanye West – America’s least most creative “musician” – sampled this song in his #1 hit “Stronger.” If you want to get someone hooked on techno – let them hear this. Or make them watch Daft Hands or Daft Bodies – it’s hard to hate the videos or the song. Oh, and as is apparently the case with all electro-house duos, Daft Punk is also from Paris.

Kraftwerk – “Trans-Europe Express” – (1977)

Kraftwerk is amazing. This song is from 1977 and it still kind of holds up. But if you’re on a train in Europe – this is the song you must be listening to. It’s the perfect train-riding song. That’s all there is to it. I talked a few weeks ago about their Tour de France Soundtracks and they’re great too, but this just seems required. Oh, and I’m pretty sure at least two of the people on that album cover could be Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte.

Justice – “Genesis” – (2007)

You’ve probably heard this song on TV – be it in a commercial or in a show. The first seconds of 30 or so seconds of buildup lead to a great drop at the 38 second mark. It’s one of the best songs in electronic music in the past 10 years. Justice is a French duo from Paris who were nominated for a Grammy for this album which is called “cross” when you speak it but the official title is “” – which is kind of a weird, Prince-y thing to do. Hey, I wonder if Genesis has a song called Justice…

Domino Dancing – “You Are My Sunshine” – (2009)

I really don’t know anything about Domino Dancing. Not where they’re from, who they are. Nada. I do know a few things: 1. I heard this song everywhere last summer (mostly at outdoor music festivals in France). 2. It is very misleading. Yes, I heard it everywhere, but not the full song. The first two minutes of this song consists of somebody singing “You are my sunshine” to a decent beat. This turns most people off to it. Then, at the two minute mark it goes insane. This was the part I heard in Europe – the part without lyrics. So I had no idea what it was. When I got back to North America I searched and searched. It took over four months but I finally found it and I’m so glad I did because it’s pretty awesome.

Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP – “We No Speak Americano” – (2010)

This week was spent in Belgium with a night in Amsterdam. I don’t know what sort of “Belgian music” I was supposed to have heard, but I didn’t really hear anything. For that sake, I didn’t really hear anything music-wise in Amsterdam either. But what I imagine music in Amsterdam to sound like is house music. Techno. This was one of the biggest songs of 2010 – in Europe especially. It was a #1 hit in both Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as most of the rest of Europe (and South Korea). This song is based on Renato Carosone’s 1956 song “Tu vuo fa l’americano,” which is pretty good in its own right, but it just doesn’t have that house feel that you’d normally expect from a song from the 1950s. Oh, and as it turns out, people in both the Netherlands and Belgium do speak Americano – and quite well.

Florence & the Machine feat. Dizzee Rascal – “You Got the Dirtee Love” – (2010)

Florence & the Machine pretty much rock as is. At the 2010 BRIT Awards, they performed their song “You Got the Love” live but it featured Dizzee Rascal’s song “Dirtee Cash” intertwined with theirs. This version of the song was only performed a few other times but it did sell over 250,000 copies and hit #2 on the U.K. charts. Florence Welch can really belt out lyrics – Dolores O’Riordan-style. The mash-up between these two is pretty good – Dizzee Rascal can spit a rap like few others. He had quite the summer as he will be featured on this European countdown-type thing once more in a few weeks.

Example – “Won’t Go Quietly” – (2010)

Example is a British rapper – but he doesn’t look like a rapper. He kind of reminds me of Screech. The song is a catchy, electronica-based pop song with decipherable lyrics – all with a European-bent. For whatever reason, this song probably wouldn’t have had much – if any – success in America (it didn’t – it probably wasn’t released in the U.S.) but I see no reason why not. When sung, the lyrics don’t have any sort of accent – something that seems to turn off American listeners. Everything about it says “this is going to get stuck in your head.” But whatever, I don’t get paid if it does well in America. And I like having some catchy songs to introduce to people that they haven’t heard.

Oasis – “Don’t Look Back in Anger” – (1995)

Well I figured since I was still on “London” that I had to include something from Oasis, as I count them as the quintessential “British band” of the last 20 years (sorry, Jamiroquai). As you’ll notice by the date of Monday’s post, I was in London on the 4th of July. I saw once instance of fireworks but that was it. It was tempting to buy an American flag and go running around town but I figured that by this point they’d probably be pretty happy to have gotten rid of the U.S. I had to pick an Oasis song because it was the one band that I kept listening to in the U.K., but since I’ve already covered “Wonderwall” on our 90s countdown, I went for another big single from What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? (although I almost went for “Lyla”). I find the song to be a mix of “Wonderwall” and “Stop Crying Your Heart Out,” the latter of which I’ve seen described as an “epic weepy” and this is kind of the same thing. The “So Sally can wait” portion of the chorus is quite the hook. Very good song.

La Roux – “Bulletproof” – (2009)

If you ignore that haircut you just might be able to enjoy this song. It’s sooo catchy but I hated it at first – because I saw the music video, which more or less horrified me (you’ll notice I did not include the music video below… mostly because Polydor won’t let me). But I grew to love it. It was a Top 10 in the U.S. and a #1 in the U.K. – and rightfully so. There is something decidedly English about this song. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s “electropop” and electropop isn’t something that U.S. really embraces anymore (not since the 80s anyway). Listening to it, even her voice has a very synthetic quality about it (probably because it was run through an auto-tuner) but the way she says “bulletproof” can really hook you in. Love it.

Shakira feat. Freshlyground – “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” – (2010)

“Waka Waka” was the theme for the 2010 World Cup, which was being held in South Africa while I was in Europe – so it was way more intense than had I been in North America, which I’m sure was just thrilled with it. The popularity of this song was also quite European – it charted Top 40 in the U.S. but was a #1 in almost every European country and it stayed there for a majority of the summer. Every time I hear this song I picture Lionel Messi sprinting down the field in his white and blue Argentina jersey or the yellows and greens of all the Brazilian flags waving in the stands. This song kind of defines last summer, from a European perspective anyway. It’s very catchy and every time you hear it just imagine everyone around you blowing a vuvuzela.

Coldplay– “Life in Technicolor” – (2008)

I had always preferred “Life in Technicolor II,” the vocal version from Prospekt’s March EP to this, the instrumental version. But that changed when I bought my ticket to ride the London Eye. It came with a ticket for the “4D Experience” – which was some video you sat through with 3D glasses and stuff. The video that they showed really stuck with me – especially because this Coldplay song was playing and it really gave a sense of amazement or power or something (the 4D video is below and “Life in Technicolor” is the second song within it). I miss London.

The Beatles – “Something” – (1969)

I figured I needed a Beatles song on here and was going to go with one of many, but then realized that the song had to be from Abbey Road. I was on my own when I went to try and find the real Abbey Road crosswalk and studios. I exited St. John’s Wood Tube station and instead of just kind of going straight (the correct way – I didn’t have a map or GPS) I bore to the left and ended up wondering around a very nice part of town. I saw what was probably the automotive highlight of my trip just as I was finding the famous crosswalk (a Ferrari 250GT Lusso). Also, much thanks to the lady in the nearby park who tried to point me in the right direction. The walls outside the studio are covered in handwritten fan messages – a testament to the lasting power of The Beatles. Earlier that day I was sitting in Regent’s Park on a Sunday (which was actually the 4th of July) watching people go about their lives while I listened to The Beatles. It was surreal. “Something” was one of the songs written by George Harrison (it has that distinct George Harrison-feel to it). It’s a beautiful song and one of the best that The Beatles ever did.

Plan B – “She Said” – (2010)

Seemingly every Tube station in London had giant posters for The Defamation of Strickland Banks – the second album from London-based rapper Plan B – the entire time I was in London. The song sounds like it’s being sung by two different people but it’s not and when I first saw the music video I was like “Whoa, that is not what I was expecting him to look like. I remember catching the video a few times on TV, at least once in the U.K. and again in Italy. The song is just plain good. Also, recently I watched the movie Harry Brown with Michael Caine and Plan B (or Ben Drew) played the tough punk kid. He was very convincing in that role.

Lily Allen – “LDN” – (2006)

“Sun is in the sky oh why, oh why would I wanna be anywhere else?” That’s the question Lily poses throughout the song and she’s right. London is amazing and I wish I was still there. I was really hoping to just be walking down the street in London and have Lily Allen walk by… because she’s awesome (and gorgeous). “LDN” might not be her best song but it’s still pretty good and it’s all about the town – but not in a good way. It paints this pretty picture with a chipper beat but every happy lyrics takes a turn and people that at first appear to be just hanging out are actually drug dealers. Which is something I experienced. Maybe I’m just glorifying the city in my mind because I enjoyed myself so thoroughly, but then I remember walking to my hotel in Canning Town and there are people just chilling on the street corners and then we heard a siren in the distance and everyone that was just standing around all went running down an alley so the cop driving by wouldn’t see them. Nice. I’d still go back in an instant.

Professor Green feat. Ed Drewett – “I Need You Tonight” – (2010)

Generally speaking, I really don’t like rappers taking pop songs from the past and just rapping over them. It’s not original. Write your own music. That said, I love this song. That has a lot to do with INXS being able to write incredibly catchy hooks and some to do with the really cool accented rapping from Professor Green. I found this song on the U.K. singles chart before I left for Europe and I found myself listening to it on the train to London. It’s quite British – I don’t think the song has ever been played on American radio but it was a top 5 in the U.K.



Paul Simon – “Graceland” – (1986)

Another song here that doesn’t really make sense. But this was the song I was listening to when one of the most surreal experiences of my life occurred. I was riding a TGV at full speed – 186 mph – through France as the sun was setting. The sky was orange and pink and blue and then we just went blasting through an expansive field of sunflowers – as far as the eye could see for what seemed like forever but must’ve really been about 30 seconds. Paul Simon singing about going to Graceland to this awesome beat and me with my head sideways on the headrest staring out the window as the sunflowers wilted in the breeze of the train. It was incredible.

James Horner – “Southampton” – (1997)

This is a weird one. It’s one of the best pieces of instrumental music… yeah. I was going to qualify that more but I won’t. It’s the best piece of music from Titanic – it’s very epic sounding. So what does it have to do with me going to Europe? No, I didn’t travel by “unsinkable” steamship. Towards the end of my time in France, I would come home in the late afternoon and this song (as well as the rest of the soundtrack) would be blaring at full volume in the house. Every window open and James Horner just screaming from the speakers. I found it hilariously odd but it did make sitting in my room fairly epic. It was tempting not to just stand in an open window with the curtains whipping in the wind behind me and this song playing. I swear I remember hearing a movie-mix version of this song back on the radio in 1997/98 but I can’t find it anywhere. I guess I was mixing this and “My Heart Will Go On” in my mind. I don’t like it when people mock Titanic, like it’s the worst movie ever made. It’s actually quite amazing. Sure, James Cameron is pretty annoying but you gotta hand it to the guy – he knows how to do special effects right (and make money).

Beltuner – “Improbable” – (2008)

I can’t find this song online anywhere to let you listen, so the video below is actually for group’s song “No Comment,” which comes from the same album, Beltuner Album#1 – which I can’t find on Amazon either. Both songs are modern takes on classical French music. All the stuff you’d expect to hear in Paris, but don’t.

Juliette Gréco – “Sur Les Quais du Vieux Paris

Juliette Gréco’s career has spanned more than 50 years and is one of the finest examples of Chanson music. This song was featured in the excellent film An Education, which I watched shortly after returning from Europe. That movie, like many, makes Paris look so wonderful – a viewpoint I did not share after my time there… although I’m sure the cool, rainy weather didn’t help. I don’t have a year for this song, all I know is that it came out on the album The Best of Juliette Gréco in 2000 – but I know it was recorded long before that. I guess the French don’t keep very good records of the recording industry – or at least they don’t post them online.

Kraftwerk – “Tour de France Étape 2” – (2003)

German electronic music legends Kraftwerk released the Tour de France Soundtracks in 2003, their first original album since 1986. The entire Soundtracks album is amazing but “Tour de France Étape 2” really is the best track from the record. If you can’t picture people racing bicycles while listening to this song, there might be something wrong with you. There is something about it that just screams “European.” I can picture it playing on European TV… like during the Tour de France. Also, this song (and Kraftwerk’s music in general… we’ll get to another one in a few weeks) is essential European train-riding music. There’s just something amazing about blasting through the French countryside at dusk at 186mph with this song playing.

Thomas Dutronc – “J’Suis Pas d’Ici” – (2007)

Again, here I have no idea what he’s saying nor what the song title translates to (okay, I’ll look it up)… and I’m back. It roughly means “I’m not here to.” And that doesn’t really clear up what the song is about to me. It has a great beat. It’s what I call a “walking beat” – meaning that you if you were walking down the street this would be a good song to have blasting because it would keep pace with your steps (another example of “walking beats”: Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally”). I randomly came across this song a year or two ago and it’s one of my favorite foreign-language songs and I’m pretty sure I listened to it in France.

Joe Dassin – “Les Champs-Elysées” – (1969)

Joe Dassin was born in Brooklyn, New York and moved to France at some point in his life. And he wrote a bunch of songs about it – this one probably being the most famous. The song is about the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées that runs through Paris and the Arc de Triopmhe which was built by Napoleon. It’s also the street where the big celebrations occurred when Paris was liberated during World War II. The song is quite catchy considering I have no idea what he’s saying and it’s one of – if not the – song that reminds me of Paris.

Muse – “Uprising” – (2009)

So I figured since Muse was the other “big band” in France last summer that I’d include it in the France portion instead of leaving it for England (which filled up quickly). “Uprising” is one of those badass rock songs that transcends radio pigeonholing. Yeah, it was a smash on rock radio but it made its way over to the pop stations too. The fact that it appeared in promos for every TV show known to man as well as a few movies… or so it seemed… certainly didn’t hurt. This song really was everywhere. It rivals “Supermassive Black Hole” as my favorite Muse song.

Phoenix – “1901” – (2009)

My first day in Nantes I had lunch with some locals and I inquired about what bands were currently popular in France and was quickly told in wonderfully accented English that Phoenix and Muse ruled the stage. Phoenix is actually a French band from Versailles, while Muse is British. “1901” has appeared in several television commercials and is listed among the best songs of 2009. It is the bands biggest international single to date.

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