Idir: Ici et Ailleurs

How many goals can one album achieve? Idir, the soft but steadfast voice of Berber/Kabyle culture, may not have posed that question when he conceived Ici et Ailleurs (Here and Elsewhere), but a partial list would include putting his native language—which has long struggled for official status in Algeria—on a bigger stage; expressing his love for the French soundtrack of his 40-year exile; and, not least, adding a new chapter to Charles Aznavour’s storied career … More Idir: Ici et Ailleurs

Galant, tu perds ton temps: Nous irons danser

Charmingly deceptive, Galant, tu perds ton temps literally means, “Young man, you’re wasting your time,” but in practice the name of the five-woman ensemble of traditional Québec music seems as much a term of endearment as a brushoff. Their playful songs are filled with courting, flirting, unfaithful suitors and ill-fitting marriages arranged by clueless fathers. On Nous irons danser (We Will Dance), the women—Evelyne Gélinas, Isabelle Payette … More Galant, tu perds ton temps: Nous irons danser

Émilie Janvier

She was a reality show star on Québec TV at 13 and comes from a musical family, but on Émilie Janvier’s eponymous debut album and in the interviews she’s done to promote it, she reveals her core shyness, crafting lyrics and music to channel feelings and tell stories that might otherwise remain hidden. If her acoustic pop/folk songs (with some well-placed country string pulls) can be defined with a single word, it’s warmth. She finds it romance, family … More Émilie Janvier

Flavia Coelho: Sonho Real

She is innocent and wise, a nomad and a poet, an alchemist of styles whose music is more colorful than the sum of its parts. Flavia Coelho, a girl from the slums of Rio de Janeiro who sang in the Paris métro and emerged a star, had none of the resources but all the energy and talent she needed. On Sonho Real (Dream Come True), her third album, she mixes elements of forró, ska, reggae and dub, spins … More Flavia Coelho: Sonho Real

Pauline Croze: Bossa Nova

When bossa nova swept the world, no country was more receptive than France. Marcel Camus’ Oscar-winning film Black Orpheus—music by Tom Jobim and Luiz Bonfá—channeled the Brazilian wave to new audiences. French artists translated and sang bossa nova anthems, and some composed original music in the genre. Sixty years later, the beat goes on. After three solid albums of pop/folk groove, French singer-guitarist Pauline Croze has taken on the bossa nova canon with poise … More Pauline Croze: Bossa Nova

17 Hippies: 20 Years – Anatomy

The Berlin-based world/folk group 17 Hippies emerged in an open-minded Europe that valued diversity. Operating less like a band than a village in which each resident carries instruments and tastes acquired on foreign adventures, the collective’s disparate elements work beautifully together, against expectations. The result is a floating musical center of gravity as inspiring as it is fun, with dominant elements (Balkan rhythm, French chanson, Weimar … More 17 Hippies: 20 Years – Anatomy

Sous Les Quais: L’âme ronde

You won’t soon forget the three artists of Sous les Quais. Frédéric Flouret (deep vocals, guitar), Romain Jamard (an accordion he calls his “third lung”) and Benoît Grelier (sonorous cello) offer street corner French chanson—early twentieth century style—and typically perform their songs in a stage-set living room crammed with flea market finds, down to their vintage suits. Fred’s lyrics are mostly about love’s weight and complication, but the band’s optics carry a cheeky vein that perhaps … More Sous Les Quais: L’âme ronde

François Léveillée: La part des anges

When cognac ages, the elusive portion that evaporates is called the angels’ share (La part des anges). As François Léveillée—humorist, singer-songwriter, author, director and beloved fixture of Québec culture—has aged, he has developed a potent formula of comedy and music. “I can take an audience to one place with humor and somewhere else entirely with a song,” he observes. While the love songs from his latest album (French chanson, folk … More François Léveillée: La part des anges

Karpatt: Angora

Long one of France’s most popular bands, Karpatt—singer-songwriter Fred Rollat, guitarist Gaëtan Lerat and bassist Hervé Jegousso—paint scenes of life’s adventure and grind, using an intoxicating mix of Gypsy jazz and French chanson, with touches of folk and rock. On Angora (named for the Paris bar where many of the album’s 13 tracks took shape), they share tales of survival, melancholy, nostalgia and a Central American journey. Salvador is a story of resilience … More Karpatt: Angora

Zoë: Debut Deluxe

The last native German speaker to capture millions of hearts in France was Marlene Dietrich, but the Austrian singer-songwriter Zoë Straub (her voice crystalline to Dietrich’s smoky) just may have the artistry and attitude to do a full Blue Angel. The 20-year-old prodigy—educated at Vienna’s Lycée Français—sounds divine in the language of Moliére and Piaf and also radiates an explosive combination of innocence and seduction. The 14 tracks of Debut Deluxe (12 co-written by Zoë … More Zoë: Debut Deluxe