European Playlist: The best of the continent

Article published on March 1, 2016
Article published on March 1, 2016

The frustrating thing about music is that there's so much of it. For 2016, we've narrowed the selection down to offer you the very best, and nothing but the best, of the European music scene.

France: Exsonvaldes

We last saw Simon, singer of the Parisian group Exsonvaldes, back in April of 2013. He was on his bike, riding off to a vocal lesson. The young man in square glasses had spent half an hour telling us about his fascination with Aérotrain and his desire to make his mark on the era. The group's last album, Lights, was your basic pop CD, something along the lines of the best work by groups like Phoenix. Now, three years later, the four friends have exchanged retro-futurism for a less aeronautical kind of music that leans more towards French chanson. The new album, Aranda, alternates between sweeping numbers like "Horizon" and beautiful ballads like "Silencio," sung with Spanish actress/artist/journalist Helena Miquel.

Exsonvaldes (featuring Helena Miquel), "Silencio"

Germany: Lùisa

In this closed-off, inward-turning time, Germany's continued openness has been remarkable. Lùisa, a 22-year-old singer from Hamburg, is the most recent proof of this breaking of established borders. She has decided to prove that the world is at its most diverse when it comes to music. On her debut album Never Own, scheduled for release on the 26th of February by a Canadian label, the young artist sings about dispossession, ponders her place in the world ("Belong"), and expresses herself in English, French (L'Hiver en Juillet) and Italian (All'Inizio). The purity of Lùisa's writing and her tremulous voice make for a surprisingly mature debut album. If you open your windows wide, it will bring a breath of spring into your chilly winter sitting room.

Lùisa, "L'hiver en juillet"

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To find out more, read our interview with the German singer.

United Kingdom: Teleman

You may have already toasted to Teleman. In 2014, after abandoning their old group Pete and the Pirates, brothers Tom and Jonny Sanders returned with a new name and an album, Breakfast. Its melodies will bewitch your waking hours. Their polished writing, uncontrived melodies, and attention to style put these young Englishmen at the cutting edge of sophisticated pop, where a love for architecture and gluten-free food abounds. Two years later, Teleman is back again and better than ever on their album Brilliant Sanity (scheduled for release by Moshi Moshi Records on the 8th of April). The song Fall in Time has everything we loved about the first album: a steady rise in power and a passion for unbridled rhythm. Then comes Düsseldorf, an unlikely homage to the city in East Germany. In four minutes it can make you love this Rhineland of the North

Teleman, "Düsseldorf "

Spain: León Benavente 

"I was driving down the highway in an Opel Corsa with 300,000 km on the odometer and a bass, an amp and a suitcase in the trunk. There at the intersection of León and Bénavente, beyond the asphalt, you've got this immense empty field. I was in the middle of nowhere. It made me think of Windows desktop wallpaper." That’s how, in 2013, Spain discovered what lay behind the musical mystery of the year.

Although its name was born on a road trip through Castile and León, the group León Benavente was formed by four guys who wanted to use guitar, bass and drums to say a few things about their country. So in 2013, on their self-titled debut album, the Spanish band bantered about the Indignants (La Gran Desilusión), cried revolution (Revolución), and laughed in the faces of kings (El Rey Ricardo). That same year, they came out with an EP, Todas Contra Todos, on which they suggested, among other things, that Europe was dead. Now, León Benavente is back with a single, Tipo D, that heralds the release of a new album soberly titled 2 (scheduled for release on the 8th of April). Its flavour is familiar: the group, more cynical than ever, is now making fun of Germany, liberalism, Western culture, MTV, Opus Dei... Some people will say, prudently, that León Benavente is a sign of the times. Others, jumping ahead, will compare them to Bob Dylan.

León Benavente, "Tipo D"

Belgium: Dan San

The young Belgian musicians in Dan San have been perfecting their harmonies for some time now. The group first appeared back in 2012 with a lovely album called Domino. It included a dozen folk songs carved in the most beautiful bark, that parachuted listeners straight into the heart of a boreal forest. Four years later, the image hasn't really changed. In the song that unveils a little of their new album, Shelter (scheduled for release on the 11th of March), we follow a motorcycle across sumptuous landscapes. Their songs are always simple, and the music always gentle. Basically, listening to Dan San is your best chance to start the weekend before anyone else.

Dan San, "America" 

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Listen :

Exsonvaldes - Aranda (scheduled for release on the 4th of March, 2016)

Lùisa - Never Own (released on the 26th of February, 2016)

Teleman - Brilliant Sanity (scheduled for release on the 8th of April, 2016)

León Benavente - 2 (scheduled for release on the 8th of April, 2016)

Dan San - Shelter (scheduled for release on the 11th of March, 2016)