charlotte gainsbourg irm
  • THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2010

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Wearing two hats is difficult with only one head, but Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of French pop artist Serge Gainsbourg and English actress Jane Birkin, seems to flow seamlessly from actress to musician with impressive poise. Part of the success of IRM might be attributed to its puppetmaster; the purveyor of Modern Guilt and many other auditory wonders, who produced and co-wrote. But the songs, production and instrumentation would mean nothing if it was all built to house Gainsbourg's sultry vocals. I don't speak French, but there is something universal about the romance languages... "Le Chat Du Cafe Des Artistes", while almost totally unfamiliar, feels very intimate and personal. And this connection can't be imitated by Beck's production values. It is Gainsbourg who ultimetly puts the soul into IRM, and that is it's best quality.

Title track "IRM" attracted me to this project before I knew why, the pulsating backwards drums, the repetition, I was recognizes the handiwork of producer Beck before I knew he was attached. Stripping Gainsbourg from the tracks and everything is Beck. On "In The End", you can almost hear him, and on "Heaven Can Wait" you actually do (he sings backup). Gainsbourg is no stranger to well-picked help&mdash previously enlisting Air, Jarvis Cocker, and Nigel Godrich (Radiohead)&mdash but Beck seems the best fit aesthetically speaking. Listening to her previous work, you can see why the two are getting along so well.

Back to the intimacy; a little research revealed Gainsbourg had a traumatic event in 2007 while water skiing, requiring frequent hospital trips and brain scans. You know them as MRIs, or in French, IRMs. Hints of the paranoia and isolation of being injured in a way you can't see permeates throughout the record, from "somewhere between what you need/and what you know" to "she's hiding on a battleship of baggage and bones". "Me and Jane Doe" seems like a playful way of talking about memory loss. And "Vanities" is harrowing and empty, both in the reverberated distance in Gainsbourg's voice and the minimal instrumentation on the track.

From Lohan to Johanssen, plenty of pretty faces have attempted to jump the pond from "actress" to "artist". And although Gainsbourg is quite striking, she pulls her weight in writing a variety of attractive songs, from French pop to alternative fuzz. IRM is, quite literally, a scan of her mind, making it an incredibly personal and fragile affair. But the best music is sincere, and Gainsbourg means what she says, even if she needs a translator (or a producer) to help say it. -joe puglisi

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MP3:"IRM" - IRM
Charlotte Gainsbourg on Myspace

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