If there was anything that didn’t need reinvention, it’s the beguiling musical stylings of l’ancienne première dame de France Carla Bruni. Her guilelessly titled new album is once again like a precious gift of felicity amidst the daily distress that is la vie en 2013. Flitting effortlessly between stark but pretty Gallic folk, and breezy, Brazilian-spiced Europop, Bruni manages to affectingly convey sweetness, melancholy and a prodigious amount of unselfconscious joy in both music and voice.
Little French Songs is Carla Bruni's first album since 2008's Comme Si de Rien N'Etait, and her first outing as France's former first lady. Reception in the English-speaking press on the European side of the Atlantic has been middling at best, while in France the album has been greeted with more enthusiasm. The truth may lie somewhere in between for most, but for those with at least a working knowledge of the French chanson tradition, both in its formal sense and through its various revolutionary phases, they will find that most of this fits squarely inside it (though that knowledge is not necessary to enjoy the album).
Though Carla Bruni has never failed to enchant front-page editors at European tabloids, her duties as first lady of France precluded her efforts as an artiste in various media—the exception being a spin 'round the Rodin Museum in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. These days, thanks to François Hollande, Bruni has a lot of time to spare. Few heads will turn at another album in homage to French pop of the 1960s (her fourth such), but it's important to note how playful Bruni is on Little French Songs, an album that exudes a sense of liberation.