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

Francesca Blanchard: Deux Visions

Francesca Blanchard’s debut album is rich in the contrasts on which art thrives—connection/solitude, wisdom/experience, anxiety/uplift. As for the form/content duality that animates critics, she offers a soft and stunning voice and incisive lyrics, carried aloft by a blend of folk and French chanson, accented with jazz, country and pop touches. At the album’s heart, the two visions—more complementary than contrasting—reflect the tension and creativity of Blanchard’s bilingual life (French … More Francesca Blanchard: Deux Visions

Clio

The key track of Clio’s eponymous debut album is Éric Rohmer est mort (Eric Rohmer Is Dead), a tribute to the New Wave director, who died in 2010: “I want more of him,” she laments, “of those lovers on suburban trains/Of Parisian squares where couples hold hands…” (video 1). The young singer-songwriter’s brilliant concept record carries 11 cinematic tracks of French chanson built around lyric images of everyday life and spare arrangements that … More Clio

Francis Cabrel: In Extremis

Throughout his 40-year career, Francis Cabrel—the greatest French singer-songwriter of his generation—has woven strands of folk, blues, jazz, rock and pop into iconic songs of relationships, protest and social commentary. On his 13th studio album, he is in fine form, casting a mature artist’s eye on romantic and paternal love, politics, heroism, xenophobia, war and faith—in short, on life. Dur comme fer (Hard as Iron), lampoons politicians … More Francis Cabrel: In Extremis

Zaz: Paris

When a singer is gutsy enough to do an album of classic Paris chansons—even someone like Zaz (Isabelle Geffroy), with two hit records behind her—you can bet the army of Paris-lovers will be ready to pass judgment. Verdict: Putting a “mission accomplished” stamp on this leap into the greatest musical canon of any city anywhere would be an understatement. Zaz soars over the City of Light and makes a smooth landing on the Champs Elysées … More Zaz: Paris

Angelina Wismes: à Barbara

Barbara was one of “Les 3 B,” a triumvirate of singer-songwriters—including Georges Brassens and Jacques Brel—who defended French chanson from the onslaught of American and British pop/rock in the sixties. Her melancholy songs of survival were therapy for a cruel childhood (her Jewish family fled Paris from the Nazis and she was sexually abused by her father); her singing, almost conversational, had a raw, defiant intensity. … More Angelina Wismes: à Barbara

Bastien Lanza: 2h du Mat

Platonic Challenge Listening Post 7. Can a man and a woman be Just Friends? The question has launched countless novels, films and songs—some that make us laugh or cry and others that induce yawns. Bastien Lanza, a 26-year-old singer-songwriter, has turned this human-chemistry concept into a three-minute musical masterpiece (video 1). The title song of … More Bastien Lanza: 2h du Mat