“44. You have the power to stop time. You do it by kissing. Or listening to music.” -Matt Haig, The Humans
“Music is the universal language: it does not matter that the words are occasionally lost on us, because it is the feeling that matters, and feelings do not change whether they are in Chiropolene or Ka-Khastan or Xi Qinese. A sense of wonder does not require translation.” -from my novel manuscript
Music is one of my great loves. I inherited my father’s sharp ears, and the discernment-occasionaly-bordering-on-snobbery that came with them; I’ve got perfect pitch and a pretty decent set of pipes on me, and a hankering to play instruments (violin’s a long-standing pipe dream, and I’ve taught myself some basic piano by ear). My music collection takes up most of my hard drive, and extends across a couple centuries (if we’re counting the classical), dozens of genres, and about five languages.
Of those five languages, c’est la belle langue that I want to share with you today, in honour of this year’s semaine de la francophonie. Being at a bilingual university has opened me up to the absolute gems waiting in French-language music. These days, even straight-up anglos know about Coeur de Pirate and Stromae, but I have five artists/albums for you which you may not have heard of unless you have some franco friends to tell you about ’em. Allons-y!
Mes Aïeux: La ligne orange
Mes Aïeux (EN: “My Ancestors”) is one of the leading “neo-traditional” bands in Québec. They draw characters and stories from French Canadian folklore and use them to make tongue-in-cheek comments about everything from the political climate to poutine. They’ve won about four Félix Awards (which is a big deal in Québec and Canada). My favourite album of theirs is La ligne orange, which has three of my favourite songs, “Loup blanc”, “Notre Dame de Bon Conseil”, and “Le déni de l’évidence”.
Eli et Papillon (self-titled)
This is an indie pop band from Montréal comprised of two members, Élise Larouche and Marc Papillon-Ferland. I was introduced to these two by an upper year student in high school, back when all the band had was a Myspace. Yeah. Since then, the four or five demo songs they had have been refined and expanded into a full-length self-titled album. I hear there’s another one out last October called Colorythmie, which I’m very excited about! Favourite songs: “Coffre-fort”, “Train de vie”, “Courage”, and “L’au-revoir”.
Amélie-les-crayons: Jusqu’à la mer
NB: there are no playlists for Amélie-les-crayons, but this same Youtube user has most of her work on their channel!
Amélie-les-crayons is the only non-French Canadian artist on here, and she’s earned her spot. She has about four albums out, all of which are good fun–in fact, Amélie is known for her good sense of fun, for her theatricality and humour in her performance.Jusqu’à la mer is my favourite album overall, but usually I cherry-pick songs to listen to from all her discography. Favourite songs: “Les filles des forges”, “Le citronnier”, “Les pissotières” (this one is hysterical), “Ta p’tite flamme” and “Marie Morgane”.
Klô Pelgag: L’Alchimie des monstres
I have my job at Explore to thank for introducing me to Klô–because Explore introduced me to a wonderful student by the name of Aurélie who has impeccable taste in Quebecois music. This album gets the lofty comparison from me of “French Typhoon” (Typhoon being the band that spoiled me for music forever), so you know it’s good. There’s so much beauty and so much suffering and so much fun all wrapped up in one sound–it takes more than a few listens to start really feeling like you’ve heard it. Favourite songs: everything, but specifically “Le fièvre des fleurs”, “Comme des rames”, “Rayon X”, and “Les mariages d’oiseaux”.
Louis-Jean Cormier: Le treizième étage
This album is special. I’ve listened to Louis-Jean Cormier (and all the music from his old band Karkwa, which is also recommended with all the breath in my lungs) for about three years now, and so all throughout university, when I’ve had my infrequent panic attacks, this is the album I’ve put on in the background to soothe me. More than just being a set of excellent tunes, it’s got personal resonance and significance. To me, Le treizième étage is one big It’s Gonna Be Okay, from first note to last.
While I don’t have Explore to thank for introducing me to Louis-Jean’s music, I DO have Explore to thank for presenting me with an opportunity to introduce myself to Louis-Jean.
There’s so much thoughtfulness and tenderness in the album, so much gentleness–and it’s clever, clever music, which I always appreciate. Favourite songs: again, everything, but more specifically “La cassette”, “Bull’s Eye”, “J’haïs les happy ends”, “L’ascenseur” and “Un refrain trop long”.
Et voilà! Those are my top five French-language albums/artists for you right now. Give them a listen and please let me know what you think. Also if you have any other recommendations, I’m always on the hunt for more music, so share away!