Quebecois Music

Mes Aieux En Famille album review!

Since userinfoscrunchions was asking, and since she’s the person who pointed me at Mes Aieux to begin with, here’s my overall reaction to the album I bought in Vancouver, En Famille!

This is a bit of a switch from the rest of the Quebecois music I’ve been listening to. From what I’m learning, this group’s more about modern lyrics than trad ones, although their style is still trad-influenced. Wikipedia describes them as “neo-trad”, a specifically Quebecois sub-genre, and that’s a term I really rather like as it seems to encompass not only the Quebecois music I like to listen to, but also the Newfoundland music. It nicely captures the sense of music that’s a fusion of both traditional and rock.

Now, given that we are dealing with French lyrics here, I’m still at a disadvantage–and given that Mes Aieux’s site doesn’t have lyrics posted on it, I’m going to have to doublecheck the liner notes of this album to see if they’re included so I can try to translate them. I’m given to understand that a lot of Mes Aieux’s lyrical topics are focused on life in Montreal, and out of general interest in that, I’d like to know what they’re actually saying! For now, though, I’ll have to focus just on the overall flavor and style of the songs.

I very much like the first track, “Dégénération”, the track that userinfoscrunchions pointed me at on YouTube. The vocals and instrumentation are both very strong, and I also like the reel they kick into at the end! Fortunately also, this is one song someone’s already translated online, and yeah, this is a good example of Mes Aieux’s whole idea of modern themes, trad style of performance. Especially the part in the last verse about turning off the TV and going outside. 😉

The rest of the vocals all over the album have the distinction of including both female and male voices, which by itself gives Mes Aieux some distinction in my Quebecois collection of music so far. They’re also a bit larger a group, with seven strong, so they’ve got more vocalists to play with, and I do quite like some of the tricks they’re doing with layering lead and backup voices.

They do also have more instruments to play with. I hear horns, electric guitar, and a drum kit in there, as well as fiddle and flute, so we’ve got a modern and trad blend of instrumentation, too. Stylistically they’re definitely more rock than trad, though this is not a bad thing. I definitely like the horn section rocking out on track 6, though all the electric guitar and drum kit work is taking me a bit aback, since my ear is geared these days to acoustic instruments!

As I’ve said, I have no French to speak of (aside from a tiny assortment of nouns and pronouns and the occasional verb and preposition), so I have no earthly idea about any local differences in Quebecois pronunciation–but that said, the primary singers in Mes Aieux seem to be pronouncing things more crisply and distinctly than most of the singers on my various other albums. I don’t know if this is a question of individual singing style, or a question of dialect; either way, it’s another interesting data point for me, and one which I hope to learn more about if I get an opportunity to properly learn Quebecois French.

I’m not a hundred percent sure about this, but I’m hearing only minimal podorythmie on this album, if there’s any at all; most of the percussion I’m hearing is more standard rock percussion. There are, however, occasional bits of tracks where I’m hearing something that might be footwork. If that’s what it is, it’s much less emphasized than it is in the more trad-oriented groups. This doesn’t surprise me much, given that Mes Aieux is more rock. It’s a bit weird, though, not hearing the footwork in conjunction with lyrics sung in French!

Some more specific track reactions:

I’m really liking the vocals on track 7, “La Grande Déclaration”. It’s a quieter track, and although I have not an earthly what they’re singing about, the vocals are really nice, and there’s some good fiddle and guitar (both electric and acoustic, it sounds like) and piano here.

Interesting growly-talky delivery of lyrics on the verses on track 8, too; it’s almost rap-like, but not quite there, since it’s still a bit too melodic for that. It’s good, though, and I’m respecting whichever singer in the group this is. (Whoa wait, there are English lyrics in this song! Surprise!)

I totally need the lyrics to track 9 on here, which I am given to understand is about poutine. HA!

Track 10 is pretty cool, with fun delivery of lyrics and some good fiddle and horn. And ooh, is that a harmonica in there?

Liking track 11, too–in no small part because the band’s female vocalist is getting some lead time here. Awesome.

All in all, the album’s not necessarily grabbing me right out of the gate like the more trad bands do. But that said, I’m definitely enjoying it and will probably get more of Mes Aieux’s music, probably their most recent album. Thanks, userinfoscrunchions, for recommending them!

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