I've not heard Carla Bruni before but tried this out of curiosity, half expecting to hate it. I didn't. It's not a classic by any means but it's a decent enough listen with some atmospheric moments.
The thing is, I've been a bit of a sucker for a slightly husky female French voice singing over an acoustic guitar ever since falling hopelessly in love with Françoise Hardy as a young teenager in the 60s. Now, as a singer Bruni is no Françoise Hardy, and as a songwriter she's certainly no Jaques Brel and but the effect of these well-named Little French Songs is enjoyable and rather evocative. The whole album to me conjures up black-and-white shots of a solitary young woman in a Biba-style mac looking sadly introspective at a pavement café table or walking away from the camera down a deserted and preferably leaf-strewn Paris street. You get the idea - and really only have to look at the cover to see what Bruni is aiming at here.
Bruni's voice isn't a great one but she uses it very well, sticking largely to its stronger lower register and some half-spoken asides which are effective and intimately atmospheric. I found the individual songs pretty forgettable (even Le Pingouin, the -shock! - attack on her husband's political opponent) and I'm not sure how often I will take this album out and play it in the future, but it's a lot better than I'd expected and would make enjoyable, relaxing background music if nothing else. Four stars is perhaps a little generous, but only three seems churlish - 3.5 really, rounded up.