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Charlotte Gainsbourg

IRM


[Because Music / Elektra; 2009]



By ; March 31, 2010 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

I guess if your father is Serge Gainsbourg and your mother is a respectable actress, singer and model in her own right, then you’re ultimately going to wind up attracting attention no matter what you do.

Luckily for us, Charlotte Gainsbourg decided to follow in the footsteps of her parents, becoming both a successful actress and talented musician. IRM is the second album of her adulthood (following 2006’s 5:55), and to describe it in simple terms would be a disservice to how complex and gripping it really is.

An innately personal work, IRM refers to Gainsbourg’s near-death cerebral hemorrhage in 2007. The track employs actual IRM device noises (the French acronym for what we know as an MRI), replicated on the album’s title track as she heard them during her trips to the hospital. The song is an eerie and haunting trip. Anyone who’s ever been stuck inside one of those behemoths for periods of time will be unnerved.

“Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes,” a version of a Jean-Pierre Ferland song written in 1970, is reminiscent of (believe it or not) Jack White and Alicia Keys’ “Another Way to Die” – which is, as you’ll recall, that disappointingly lackluster Bond theme song from Quantum of Solace. Gainsbourg takes an almost identical riff and works it into a beautiful, textured piece that is at once comforting and disconcerting.

And this is how the majority of the album plays out: you’ll enjoy listening to IRM yet never quite feel complacent with where it is heading. Between the hushed, breathy vocals and evocative melodies, it’s an experience you’ll likely find hard to shake off.

Certainly credit must be given to Beck, who produced the record, and his influence is all but tangible – none of these tracks’ rhythms would sound out of place on one of his (better) albums, and in working with Gainsbourg, he has – in the process – somehow brought out some of his best in years.

IRM closes with “Looking Glass Blues,” a relatively poppy and upbeat tune that finds Gainsbourg’s staccato vocals playing to the strengths of a catchy beat. It’s a sigh of relief at the end of a dark, captivating journey. It presumably opens the doors for what may be a less introspective, more raucous and joyful follow-up album. Yet no matter which direction Gainsbourg ultimately heads, one can’t help but think: It’s gonna be hard to top this one.


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