Celine Dion: D’eux (1995), S’il suffisait d’aimer (1998), 1 fille & 4 types (2003)
She’s probably one of Québec’s most internationally recognized names, but I think most Americans have no idea of how much of Celine Dion’s work has been in French. (As evidenced by the fact that the US release of D’eux was called “The French Album”—as if she only had one!) Although I had a heard a couple of her songs prior, it wasn’t really until I was introduced to Celine Dion in French that I really started listening to and following her music. One of my favorite albums is S’il suffisait d’aimer and it, as with her other work with Jean-Jacques Goldman, is excellent. Another collaborative album with four very talented French singers/writers is 1 Fille, 4 Types which uses a lot of back-to-basics acoustic guitar to create an overall feel of backwoods singing and the Canadian countryside—quite different from her lush and lite pop ballads of recent years in English.
Sylvain Cossette: Blanc (1996)
Cossette’s strong tenor voice gives his songs on this album an impressive range and stylishness. While he does have more upbeat songs, his best work is represented in his slower songs and ballads. He had been recording since the eighties, but the songs from his album Blanc were quite popular while I was a student. His songs are largely self-written but one of his biggest hits is a remake of the famous French song “Que je t’aime”. I later purchased his next album which has more of a singer-songwriter feel with a lot of nice slightly grander productions.
Daniel Belanger: Quatre Saisons Dan La Desordre (1996)
A very well known Quebec singer, Belanger’s songs have playfully humorous yet quite artful lyrics that reflect a fun, clownish personality. He possesses a unique and versatile voice that has made his work very recognizable.
Eric Lapointe: Invitez Les Vautours (1996), “Les Boys” (1997)
If you’re looking for a true bit of Québec culture, then Eric Lapointe is definitely a good place to start. I attended a RockFest event at which he performed, and the whole crowd of thirty-thousand was singing along with every song. His songs are generally rock sung with a very gritty voice (“Les Boys” which was the title track to a popular Québec movie about hockey is a good example), but he has some passionate ballads too. For somebody who has studied French in the US and traveled to Paris, it is also very interesting to listen to his music because his Québecois accent stands out very much.
Lili Fatale: CK80296 (1997)
This band has an engaging sound, an electric mix with acoustic underpinnings. Alternately brooding and energetic, they have songs with very sharp lyrics and a somewhat sarcastic life outlook. They display a punk band image but with better music, smarter writing, and (I am told by a friend that met them) much nicer personalities.
Eli et Papillon: Eli et Papillon (2012)
Eli et Papillon are a Montreal based duo offering a unique keyboard and acoustic sound that ranges from a bit ethereal to chic to traditional. Singer Elise Larouche (Eli) has a light flowing voice reminiscent of sixties Parisian singers that is arranged into layers of harmony by writer and musician Marc Papillon-Ferland (Papillon). Also interesting are the numerous covers of famous English songs that they have put on youtube.
Lisa LeBlanc: Lisa Le Blanc (2013)
The music of this Acadian folk singer is a good reminder that French Canada is not confined to the borders of Quebec alone. Hailing from the province of New Brunswick, Lisa Leblanc’s self-titled album contains a lot of strong down-home country flavor sung with a broad brassy voice and mischievous humor. As is common in that region, a lot of the French and English mix into a quite interesting mish-mash of phrases. She’s also not shy to swear broadly!
2Freres: A Tous Les Vents (2020)
I wanted to update by Quebec music collection a bit and found this latest album by a pair of brothers from a small rural town that is full of crisp two-part harmony. While all the songs are Canadian folk, it is interesting the mishmash of styles within that genre that the duo put on this one album; at one point it is roots music style in the vein of Mumford & Sons and the next it is pure modern country (complete with a Kenny Chesney twang) or simple singer-songwriter ballad–but there is also plenty of traditional chanson quebecoise as well (most notably the humorous bonus song “Snack-bar chez Raymond”). My favorite song is the simple “Faut qu’j’y aille”.