It’s never easy to find music in a language you don’t necessarily know how to speak or read. American musicians are the main characters in music journalism all around the world, but it’s rare to find articles written in English about international musicians. The language barrier is a problem, but with the help of Google Translate, we at THE BOMBER JACKET have discovered some new Francophone albums. The findings below range from singer/songwriters to folk and rock. Regardless of the language, the music is passionate, rustic, and honest, making us question whether it is indeed necessary for English to be a universal language in music.
Fatras – Virevoltige
Fatras, meaning “Hodgepodge,” is exactly that—a mix of gypsy, folk, swing, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll. A collaboration of eight musicians playing horns, guitars, drums, accordions, and more, this band builds up to epic jams on many of their tracks. The music is hard to compare to other sounds, but if a comparison is helpful, the tunes almost sound like a young Tom Waits rocking hard in French. The singer’s raspy voice and the waltzing time signatures may be why, but part of what people love about Tom Waits is the build up to a climax with folk instruments that aren’t so familiar in rock ‘n’ roll. “Les Cartes” is a track definitely worth checking out, but as always, listen to them all to truly understand what this Hodgepodge is all about.
Fredda – L’Ancolie
This album is beautiful constructed and reminiscent of Madeleine Peyroux’s Dreamland. It’s French lounge music—slow, but filled with strong passion and melodic beauty. It’s perfect for sitting around and sipping some chardonnay on a warm summer night. The singer’s voice is soft and almost melancholic, but comforting and the music is warm and full. For new listeners, “Il Ne Me Reste” is a more upbeat track with carefree and playful vocals, but the album’s opening track “Morin Heights” makes the best first impression.
Barrio Populo – Désordre
This mix of punk, folk-rock, and ska is a great example of the dynamic energy that can come from independent music. The French seem to always put passion into anything they do musically and Barrio Populo does not hold back. Released just over a month ago, the album is pretty fresh. The band consists of eight childhood friends living in the French countryside, rejecting society to some extent while collaborating on a very eclectic album that can’t really be placed in any genre but its own. According to Last.fm, the singer writes “to carry a declaration of love to nature, freedom, and a rebellious life” and it’s very notable on their album Désordre (Disorder). Listeners can hear a demonstration of their varying sounds by listening to a track like “Why,” which is pretty hard-hitting punk rock, and then listening to “L’Attente” that has a bit more of a lighter-hearted indie folk-rock sound.
Barbara Carlotti – L’Amour, l’Argent, le Vent
This pick is another brilliantly crafted album with a French female vocalist. It’s busier, more fun, and upbeat in comparison to Fredda’s darker record mentioned earlier. While it still contains the sad, slower love songs, the music usually pleasantly resolves. A choice track is “Quatorze Ans,” with its driving beat and rocking riff. Also, the opening title track has a pretty interesting rhythm that all comes together and gives the listener the feeling that something big is to come–quite appropriate for an opening song.
Tournée Générale – Demain, C’est Quand?
This is a very impressive French folk album that could be called gypsy-punk. It has that rustic country feel with accordions and acoustic guitars and catchy lines for singing along (if you know French of course). At times there’s almost a Spanish flare to the album. The energetic, sunny sound inspires the image of a French cantina with a girl in a frilly dress and a scarf around her neck, dancing on the bar. Check out the track “Etc,” that features an accordion and whistling, coupled with speak-singing/rapping.