Various Artists - Gentils Garçons [Sonic Scenery, 2009]

After releasing two albums named Filles Fragiles, Guuzbourg (an alias of Dutch journalist Guus Hoogaerts) presents a new compilation of French chansons. This time it’s not an album full of fragile girls singing, but just nice boys who can make happy girls out of angry women. This last remark is written on the cover of this cd by Dutch singer Wende Snijders.

Gentils Garçons creates a picture of a summer in the Provence. Sitting in a lavender field, eating a baguette with Camembert and sipping a cool rosé wine. Listening to this album doesn’t ask for a lot of fantasy to imagine this scenery, it is what it’s made for.

Godfather of male chansonniers Serge Gainsbourg leads this pack of boys that make girls sigh. His Couleur Café is the oldest song on this compilation, 13 other tracks are released in the past decade. Which proves that this traditional form of French music is still alive. Not all artists who deserved a place on this album are even French. A bit of a surprise is British formation Tindersticks. Frontman Stuart Staples sings in perfect French Plus de Liaisons, originally an English song called No More Affairs.

The lyrics sung on this cd are not very exiting, yet some contain funny bits. The joy of cycling isn’t one of the most interesting topics, but a song about a baby who looks like an eskimo makes one giggle a bit. Renan Luc sings in Repenti about a member of the Mafia who regrets his illegal acts.

Unlike the album title might suggest, it’s not just male artists. A couple of songs are supported by the vocal talents of female singers. Feist sings along with Arthur Higelin on La Chanson de Satie, a musical duet based on a text by Satie and on Encore de Étoiles Barbara Carlotti synchronises her voice with Pierre Fa.

Gentils Garçons is quite diverse. It contains dreamy songs, like 30 Décembre by Liben, and some tracks that make you want to dance with joy. Au Grand Jamais by Bensé is one of those happy songs. Samir Barris sings Le Fossé, which is perfect for driving your Citroën 2CV through the vineyards. This album is a soundtrack for a long summer in France and makes one want to go on holiday. I’m off... packing!

Marin van Campen

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Various Artists - Gentils Garçons