Album: Charlotte Gainsbourg, IRM (Because)

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Charlotte Gainsbourg has made a second career out of playing a musical muse, from her 13-year-old debut with her father Serge on "Lemon Incest" to the varied collaborators (Jarvis Cocker, Air, Neil Hannon, etc) who furnished the musical frames for her 2006 album 5.55.

It's a role she continues to play with chic poise on this follow-up, the songs for which were mostly written, arranged and produced by Beck. But other than Beck's admiration for her father's work, it's hard to figure what connects the two performers, as Gainsbourg's voice is the kind of soft, semi-spoken murmur from which overly demonstrative intonation appears to have been excised, as if constituting emotional betrayal. Which, given the allusive, sometimes surreal nature of Beck's lyrics, can leave these songs seeming like exercises in two-way alienation. Gainsbourg may open the album searching for "a reason to feel", but there's no indication, by the close of the album, whether she's found it. The sole point of true connection comes on "IRM" itself, a song inspired by the singer's experiences with MRI scanners following a brain haemorrhage, her fascination with the machine's churning industrial noise resulting in its emulation here, behind a lyric pondering the nature of "ghost imaging my mind".

Download this IRM; Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes; Me And Jane Doe; Vanities