Mélanie Pain is best known as the lead singer of the French band Nouvelle Vague, who seduce millions around the world with their breathy renditions of 80s pop songs. But the multiinstrumentalist singer-songwriter also has her own solo career, which functions as an outlet for some of the most charming pop hooks and confessional chansons you’ll ever hear. So it’s not a surprise that when she’s performing in Budapest, it’s always at a concert hall that is crowded with fans and music lovers – February 4 won’t be an exception.
Hailing from Aix-en-Provence, France, Mélanie cites influences that include Sonic Youth, The Smiths, Pixies, PJ Harvey and Nick Drake. She first made a name for herself as a vocalist on the M83 album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts: she sings in the songs Run Into Flowers, 0078h and Beauties Can Die. The album quickly became a cult classic (Pitchfork, for example, gave it 9.2 points) and earned the French singer many loyal followers. Just a year later, in 2014, she was featured on Nouvelle Vague, the eponymous album debut by the 80s revival group led by Marc Collin and Oliver Libaux on which she sang cover versions of Public Image Ltd.’s This Is Not A Love Song and The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks. Around the same time, she collaborated with Benoit de Villeneuve on his full-length debut as Villeneuve, First Date, on which she sang most of the album’s songs.
Her collaborations continued in subsequent years, most notably her close association with Nouvelle Vague. On the group’s second album, Bande á Part, she sang five songs, among them cover versions of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass, New Order’s Blue Monday and on their third album, 3, she covered Depeche Mode’s Master And Servant alongside Martin Gore and a version of Echo & The Bunnymen’s All My Colours featuring Ian McCulloch. Upon signing to the Parisian label Cinq 7, Pain made her full-length solo debut in 2009 with My Name, an album of folk-pop chansons sung both in English and French, most of them co-written by Villenevue. Next year, Nouvelle Vague released their last album before a long hiatus, Couleurs sur Paris, on which Pain covered Marie France’s Déréglée.
Fans had to wait another two years before she would release anything new, but Bye Bye Manchester, a charming tribute to the city’s music scene (especially Morrisey and The Smiths) was very much worth every day that has passed without new material. With the album, she moved towards simple yet catchy electro-pop, and it really showcases her beautiful, innocent vocals and her sense for writing hook-filled melodies. And her story was still far from over…
After a solo concert on the A38 Ship and joining Budapest Bár, a famous Hungarian band who mix gypsy virtuosity with the energies of rock ‘n’ roll on stage, she returned to the studio with Nouvelle Vague. The result was I Could Be Happy, containing covers of more classic 80s hits like I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones or The Cure’s All Cats Are Grey, but also four original compositions – the first ones in NV’s long history. Luckily, Mélanie didn’t use up all her creative energies, so she recorded another solo album with Gael Rakotondrabe, the highly respected pianist of Antony & The Johnsons and CocoRosie. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Parachute is entirely based on that instrument; no guitar was recorded. It’s hard to define the record’s style – hybrid and modern, classical, almost aquatic. Mélanie is at ease here, experimental and theatrical on some tracks, minimalist and organic on others… always filled with emotion – hers, ours. It sends shivers down our spines and we have a feeling that the same will happen at her next Hungarian concert too.