Charlotte Gainsbourg

Rest

Because

Nov 15, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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Charlotte Gainsbourg sings in both French and English on Rest, her first album in seven years. While the actress and singer previously wrote only in English, intimidated by the superstardom of her late father, French musician Serge Gainsbourg, this linguistic duality brings out haunting layers of mystery on her fifth album.

The record charmingly marries modern electronic pop and Kate Bush-like feminine art-pop vocals. Gainsbourg's voice, along with French DJ and remixer SebastiAn's production, brings a sophisticated gloss, unsurprising considering the influence of Gainsbourg's mother, British fashion icon Jane Birkin, and Charlotte's own glamorous career in the spotlight.

Amidst this sensuality and high-fashion credibility lies an unfaltering sincerity. The sudden 2013 death of Gainsbourg's half-sister, fashion photographer Kate Barry, and the grief that came afterwards, intensely influenced the writing of Rest. This deep emotionality led Gainsbourg to write most of the album's lyrics herself for the first time, after heavily leaning on her father, Jarvis Cocker, and Beck for previous releases.

This personal heartbreak creates a passionate intimacy, from the devastating piano-driven "Kate," infested with eerie strings and grounding percussion, to the crushing lyricism of "I'm a Lie," the majority of which Gainsbourg sings in French. What she does sing in English, then, is striking: "Why do you say/You're a lie/You're a lie/Why can't you say/Who you are/Who you are?" is made up of layered whispers, woven over an enchanting counter melody.

Rest wavers between eerie and undoubtedly beautiful, but there is also trepidation. The album reaches its height when it loses this wariness, stepping away from too much whispering. "Songbird in a Cage," written and composed by Paul McCartney, is not as pretty as its title may make out. Starting as a disconcerting guitar riff, it weaves its way into a pounding electro-pop number featuring glockenspiel and Wurlitzer.

Gainsbourg may sing nursery rhymes at both ends of the record"Ring-a-Ring O' Roses" on the so-named first track and the alphabet song on album closer "Les Oxalis"but that doesn't detract from any sophistication. Rest took seven years to come out, its long gestation fuelled by grief, and the finished product is nothing short of cathartic. (www.charlottegainsbourg.com)

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