Clio: Déjà Venise

Clio doesn’t so much write songs as paint them. Her lyrics flow in conversational tones, filling each story like brush strokes on a canvas. On Déjà Venise (Already in Venice), her second album, the French singer-songwriter is concerned mostly with couples on the verge of connecting or disconnecting. Her portraits, often simultaneously realist and impressionist, are composed of images—unsipped coffee on a counter, a departed lover’s footprints in snow … More Clio: Déjà Venise

Zaz: Effet Miroir

Camus argued that travel is a spiritual testing, stripping us of habitual surroundings and taking us not away from but toward our essence. Zaz, one of the most popular French artists abroad, did three world tours in four years and says her adventures reshaped her sense of self. Known for retro-modern French chanson and jazz manouche, on Effet Miroir (Mirror Effect), her fourth album, she presents a more nuanced and eclectic soundscape, 15 songs … More Zaz: Effet Miroir

Nour: Après L’orage

They can be meteorological or emotional, a vortex of personal, political or technological upheaval or even (nowadays) a whirlwind of Tweets. Storms typically require cleanup, but what about the flip side—the light that’s more lucid, the ungoverned mess that mixes things up, leaving arrangements never before seen but that, just maybe, make logical or absurdist sense? What about fear and insecurity weathered and what we learn from it all? Nour isn’t … More Nour: Après L’orage

Bénabar: Le Début de la Suite

Gavroche, Eleanor Rigby, Lili Marlene—evocative characters of literature and song are often everyday people in uncommon circumstances or described in illuminating context. When it comes to finely detailed portraits and scenes, the French singer-songwriter Bénabar (Bruno Nicolini) leverages his modest start—he played more than 300 bar concerts before he met his first record … More Bénabar: Le Début de la Suite

Florent Nouvel: Le Nouvel Album

Florent Nouvel has a child’s sense of wonder and a director’s flair for composition. He simultaneously reveals and fabricates—his Facebook bio describes him as “le plus grand chanteur” of France (6 feet, 6 inches, or 1.99m)—and in fabricating illustrates larger truths with fine details. He writes catchy French chanson melodies, with deft touches of swing, bossa nova or jitterbug rock, that animate … More Florent Nouvel: Le Nouvel Album

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