The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: Charlotte Gainsbourg – ‘Rest’ (Because)

The life of Charlotte Gainsbourg has long been in the spotlight; born into fame via her headline-grabbing parents (French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg and English actress Jane Birkin), Charlotte has always lived under a shadow. This can be reflected in the musical career of Gainsbourg, who for her previous four records, have relied on others for the lyrical and production output. Her creative peak, 5:55, was a sumptuous product of Air production and Jarvis Cocker lyricism. While 2009’s IRM was made with Beck. However, on fifth record Rest, Gainsbourg has taken the bold step into the limelight alone with each track written exclusively by Gainsbourg, though this does lead to some mixed results.

Rest is a record full of forlorn reflection; Serge Gainsbourg famously died in 1991, whilst her step-sister Kate Barry died in the intermittent years between 2011’s Stage Whisper and the release of Rest. Musically the record is sumptuous in its drama-laden panegyric characteristics. However, for long spells of Rest, this is more exhausting than it is rewarding.

Opener ‘Ring-a-Ring O’ Roses’ is laboured in its attempts of producing Lana Del Rey-infused pop. Gainsbourg’s typically whispered vocal fails to hit the highs we have seen on her previous record, while the slow electronics fail to captivate. Much of the same can be said for the following, it’s journey like deep electronics and ominous pianos create an atmosphere not matched in the vocal delivery leaving the album on the back foot from its beginning.

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However, that’s not to say that Rest is a total misfire; ‘Kate’ finds harmony between the dark tones of the keys via the crashing percussion and synths. The gorgeous strings and beautiful high-pitched vocal of Gainsbourg sees the track excel, while the stark lyricism around the death of Barry gives the track an underlying sense of uneasiness. ‘Don Vos Airs’ sees a mix of Isaac Delusion-infused dream pop mixed with an alluring sense of danger in the instrumentation’s hushed tones.

Rest also maintains the electro-pop sound that those familiar to previous Gainsbourg’s records will feel comfortable with. Album closer Les Oxalis is a brilliant example of disco in the 21st century; mixing together excellent layers of percussion and piercing, forthright electronics, the album certainly ends on a high. Elsewhere the influence of Jarvis Cocker can be found on the indie-pop ‘I’m A Lie’, while the sounds of Air can be found on ‘Les Crocodiles’.

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Rest is a successful venture into the songwriting world for Gainsbourg. Grappling with the death of loved ones is handled brilliantly throughout while still maintaining the delicate sounds which have seen Gainsbourg flourish so well prior to Rest’s release. The album isn’t an unmitigated success, and there are times where the experimentation misses the mark, but, on album five, Gainsbourg sounds as free as ever. Rest isn’t the finished article; album six may very well be. (6/10) (John Tindale)

Listen to Rest by Charlotte Gainsbourg here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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