Monday, 24 January 2011

Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM [2009]

The famous daughter of famous parents, actress, singer-songwriter. Is her success dependent on easy start or a natural consecution of a huge talent passed in this family? Charlotte’s music career started over 26 years ago with supporting her father in Lemon Incest. But in this period she finished only 3 albums, of which the last – IRM is considered to be a major success.

Charlotte never was a composer. Firstly, she sang songs written by her famous father Serge Gainsbourg, later on she was choosing other artists to prepare material for her like the french band Air on 5:55. This time she chose Beck, American multi-instrumentalist working with Flaming Lips and Devendra Banhart. He wrote all music and helped Charlotte with lyrics, shaping them from the pieces she gave him. But as they claim, she was present in the studio all the time, guiding him to help her make a piece of music she carried in her heart.

Charlotte confessed that the most inspiring for her were self-experiences – of her illness caused by ski-accident – cerebral haemorrhage and multiplies MRI scans she had to take, as well as her work on last Lars von Trier film – Antichrist. In fact the MRI machine is essential on the album – firstly appearing in its name – IRM (french word for MRI) and as an... instrument in the title track.

The musical side of the album is very simple, yet rich in interesting ideas and sounds. It’s clear that vocals are the centre point, but music is not just a background, it cuddles Charlotte’s voice and strengthens the atmosphere. It’s never aggressive, but varies a lot in emotions of each song. The two dominating factors are lullabies such as In The End or Vanities and energetic, though not always optimistic possible-hits like Heaven Can Wait (with additional vocals by Beck) or IRM.

It’s almost impossible to avoid comparisons with her famous parents works, especially Serge’s music. He was followed by many artists, but somehow his daughter managed to find her own path, taking relatively little from her father’s. She wanted to learn to sing “naked” as the girls in his bands used to do whereas Beck took his characteristic percussion style. The very humble music consists mainly of piano, guitars, strings or some electronica. As for the genre I’d classify it as pop, although Trick Pony is a bit punkish, and slower songs remind me of chanson française.

To be honest Charlotte is not an impressive singer, neither in scale nor in voice emotion, this thing that makes us shiver. Most of her singing is whispering or doing some very simple melodies with calm voice. But that’s the best! It is said that simplicity is most beautiful and she confirms this opinion. Her voice creates beautiful, pure atmosphere, although it is not free of sadness. In Antichrist she presented a full complexity of female nature, with its attacks of joy, anger and despair – and so she did on her album showing how happy and – excuse me – also fucked up we women can be sometimes...

I’m falling in love with this album. It’s short, simple and very complex at the same time. It has great, wise lyrics like my favourite Time of the Assassins. Thanks to its light atmosphere you can listen to it many times in a row and not get tired AND keep discovering more and more in it. Generally I avoid pop and electronica, but IRM enchanted me, caught and apparently doesn’t want to let free.

Recommended for mornings as a waking and optimistic music-day-starter or for calm evenings with a cup of cocoa or a glass of wine.


  1. Uwielbiam Twoje recenzje. Są tak precyzyjne i tak naładowane emocjonalnie, że dosłownie muszę teraz włączyć sobie Charlotte i to koniecznie utwór 'Time of the Assassins'. Widzę Twoją świetlaną przyszłość w karierze krytyka muzycznego! Pomyśl o tym ;*

    Twoja Aś.

  2. Dzięki kochana;* cały czas nad tym myślę, tylko niech się znajdzie okazja^^