I am always perfectly happy listening to a conversation in another language, even if I’m blissfully ignorant of its meaning. I particularly love the mysterious beauty of the French language. There’s something in the way the words roll and ripple together one after another that distinguishes French from other languages. The form of every word contributes to its obvious position as the most graceful and elegant language, and with these songs, I experience a taste of the beauty of words. “Le Moribond” by Beirut
Lead singer Zach Condon guides the listener through the final goodbyes of a man to his family and friends. The song is lively, brisk and triumphant, though the character has surrendered to death. It sounds less like a death song and more like a cheerful square dance, complete with accordion and horn sections.
“Rue St. Vincent” by Yves Montand
Probably best known as the accompaniment to the failed romantic attempts of Max Fischer in the Wes Anderson-directed film Rushmore, “Rue St. Vincent” is gentle and tinged with nostalgia and soft piano music. Perfect for curling up with a book on a lazy day.
“La Vie en rose” by Édith Piaf
In this song for true romantics, Piaf rises to the occasion with a lilting serenade about a lovers’ embrace and the exhilaration it inspires. Many artists have attempted to recreate Piaf’s classic, but only she can stir our hearts with thoughts of love. Every true Francophile – one who is interested in all things French – must be familiar with this song.
“L’échec” by Yann Tiersen
Tiersen, whom you may recognize as the composer for the French film Amélie, is also famous as a solo artist and multi-instrumentalist. This song is a calming mixture of piano, strings and a duet between Tiersen’s own mild voice and Natacha Régnier. I will be the first to admit I have been lulled to sleep many times as Tiersen and Régnier sing of facing flaws in a loving relationship.
“J’ai Deux Amours” by Madeleine Peyroux
A slow song with a bit of swing, Peyroux’s voice harkens back to Billie Holiday as she sings about “two loves,” of France and Paris. The jazzy piano and guitar makes you want to head to the nearest cafe for a cup of coffee and a croissant.
“Comme des enfants” by Coeur de Pirate
French-Canadian singer-songwriter Béatrice Martin pens a playful song about innocent love. The piano accompaniment sounds like a children’s nursery song – apt for a song title that translates to “Like Children” in English – and as she sings, all I can imagine are sunny days in summertime.
“Le Commun des Mortels” by Pomplamoose
This California-based band is known on YouTube for its versatility and diverse sounds. Nataly Dawn, one half of the duo, sings mournfully of the plight of the average man and the status quo, while Jack Conte accompanies her with simple guitar chords and a xylophone. The two pride themselves on their “VideoSongs,” which follow the motto, “What you see is what you hear,” meaning there is no lip-syncing or hidden sounds and the viewer has the pleasure of watching it all unfold.