Sunday, May 13, 2012

In review--Learning how to swim in French

Irène and Francis Jacob
Je Sais Nager (I know how to swim)
Sunnyside Communications/Universal France

Brazilian bossa nova diva Astrud Gilberto and French actress Brigitte Bardot, though from two parts of the world, shared soft understated vocals in common.  In mainly the realm of Parisian actresses, breathy vocals were transformed into a vocal pop art.  Even the English alternative pop band Stereolab made this music hip back in the 1990s, then dubbed as French lounge music.  The days of Edith Piaf belting out torch songs had ended, replaced by film stars turned singer-songwriter.  French actress Irène Jacob (Trois Coleurs Rouge and Double Life of Veronique) has joined the French pop music tradition while joining forces with her musician brother Francis Jacob on Je Sais Nager.

This world pop album combines suave bossa nova with North and West African flavors, while never allowing listeners to forget the French origins of the songs.  Certainly, this breezy collection of songs feels right on a hot spring day.  I can see these songs playing in the background at a cafe or at a late evening dinner party, or even playing on headphones while a listener reclines in a lawn chair or a hammock.  Reminiscent of Michel LeGrand’s movie music, take a listen to the track, Communion with its brother-sister duet.  The rousing opener Jihad et Cruzada with its West African groove and gospel backup vocals lets listeners know they’re in for a sophisticated listening experience and listening to the West African-style acoustic guitar that opens Ouvre Les Yeux feels like Putumayo Presents territory.  The album closes with Communion Interdite, but the duet is now with Irène and alto Agnes Jaoui--it journeys into bossa nova territory.

I wish this brother and sister duo success with their classy French pop.  I’m feeling too lazy to look up the lyrics on the PDF document that’s embedded in the CD so I’m at a loss to critique lyrics.  Musically, this album makes a wonderful music companion for a relaxing day.  Chances are someone is going to find this music romantic just as they did with Astrud Gilberto so long ago.

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