Françoiz BreutView in iTunes
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In the ‘90s, singer Françoiz Breut established herself as an important player on the French music scene. Breut, who is known for melancholy, introspective lyrics and a smoky, jazz-tinged approach to pop/rock, has inspired a variety of comparisons. She has been compared to the influential ‘60s ye-ye icon Françoise Hardy -- which is perhaps a comparison that comes too easily -- as well as German singer Nico (who was known for her work with the Velvet Underground in the late ‘60s). Other comparisons have ranged from Marianne Faithfull and Suzanne Vega to Tom Waits, Sting, and Nick Cave, but unlike those artists, Breut sings in French more often than not. Occasionally, Breut has embraced English-language material (such as "My Wedding Man" from her self-titled debut album), but more often than not, her material has been in French. And while the language barrier prevented her from becoming well known in the United States in the ‘90s, it wasn't as much of an issue in Europe. Breut grew up in the town of Cherbourg, which is in northern France near the English Channel. There, she was exposed to a variety of music by her sister, who had a sizable record collection. Breut went on to perform English-language rock in a cover band, and in the early ‘90s, she became romantically involved with male vocalist/songwriter Dominique Ané (who is now a major star in France). For about three years, Breut provided background vocals for Ané; she joined him on his European tours and appeared on some of his recordings for the Lithium label (including 1993's Si Je Connais Harry). But in late 1996, Breut decided to pursue a solo career -- and Ane ended up doing a great deal of writing for her albums (mostly in French, although "My Wedding Man" underscores his ability to write in English). In France, Breut has recorded for Lithium and Virgin France; in England, some of her work has been licensed by Bella Union Records, a London-based label that is owned by Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins fame. Breut's albums have included her self-titled debut album of 1997 and her sophomore outing, Vingt a Trente Mille Jours, which came out in 2000. ~ Alex Henderson