Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Reviews:: Charlotte Gainsboug 5:55

It’s really tough to separate a child from a famous parent, especially when the parent is a well renowned artist. Charlotte Gainsbourg is the daughter of French poet/singer/director Serge Gainsbourg, and much like Lennon, Dylan, Garfunkle or Marley, she will most likely be compared to her father on almost every song.

He was an eccentric, erotic (often perverse) artist with an amazing amount of talent. His dark, synth driven rhythms influence a lot of today’s subtle, electro-lounge artists, and now his daughter is following along the same path. An actress and singer, she is probably best known for her incestuous duet with her father – Lemon Incest (or maybe her backing vocals for Badly Drawn Boy or the countless films she’s been in, or just for being his daughter…. I don’t really know which one). This album – 5:55 – is much easier to digest than that collaboration, and the contributions of several talented musicians help her craft some great songs.

The record features beats crafted by Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin of Air and lyrics penned by Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon. On the title track, the slow beat attaches itself to Charlotte’s hushed vocals. Unfortunately, if you heard this song in passing, you’d assume that Charlotte was nothing more than a guest vocalist, but that doesn’t make the song any less enjoyable. As the record progresses, she slowly, and somewhat reluctantly pushes her personality into the forefront and at points, takes control of the record. My favorite song is the eerie, AF607105. The song tells a story of a stewardess revisiting a horrific plane crash. The beat drifts aimlessly and ironically floats effortlessly, providing a stark contrast to the subject matter, but the star of the track is her shockingly sensual voice.

I was surprised by how well she controls slow ballads, like Beauty Mark and Everything I Cannot See. As the production and distractions escape the mix, you are left with simple instrumentation and a charismatic voice that draws you in. Even on the dubbed out piano ballad Jamais (which finally lets former Fela Kuti percussionist Tony Allen add his two cents), she quietly powers through the mix, and the result is fantastic. She’s sexy, vulnerable, strong and naïve, often within the same song. If she wanted to, she could dominate this record, but sadly, her talented friends often steal the spotlight without trying. You'd be hard pressed to not hear Cocker's wit on tracks, or to not hear Air's influence on the more electronic numbers.

At times, she hits borrows liberally from her father’s influences – the strings and chimes remind me a lot of the Serge/Bardot era tracks which I’ve recently revisited, and choosing to record a song in French as opposed to her sexy English accent will surely draw comparisons from a lot of listeners – but how could she (or the friends she has working with her) not be influenced by his talent? The shadow he cast is a hard one to step out from under, but if her last name wasn’t Gainsbourg, we’d all be talking about a new chanteuse destined to spend years making beautiful, down-tempo emotion laced pop songs. Hopefully, she keep going and starts to make her own name. She certainly has the voice and appeal to deserve it.

MP3:: AF607105
Video:: That Song We Sing

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Posted at 5:39 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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