Charlotte Gainsbourg began her path both as a singer and as an actress under the influence of her father Serge, legendary French musician, artist and provocateur. Up until this point, however, her attempts at making music were mostly overshadowed by her achievements in cinema. ‘Rest’ is a statement with which Charlotte fully establishes herself in the music world. Unlike her past work, this time Gainsbourg reflects on more personal topics such as the loss of her father and beloved half-sister.
Having no illusions about Charlotte’s voice, producer Sebastian Akchoté focuses on compensating the lack of the vocal strength and unique timbre by the instrumentation. Modern electronic beats and funky grooves mixed with traditions of French pop blend perfectly with Gainsbourg’s subtle, almost whispering vocals, taking the job of creating the emotional peaks and moments of beauty where the singer wouldn’t be able to handle it alone.
This elaborate production goes full power in the beautifully melancholic ‘Deadly Valentine,’ a track that sounds as though it was made for a million dollar perfume commercial. ‘Lying With You’ also stands out as the most haunting and powerful song on the album, resembling a slow funeral march for Serge Gainsbourg, to whom Charlotte still shows the greatest affection decades after his death.
In the same manner, ‘Ring-A-Ring O’Roses’ and ‘Kate’ lament the naivety and innocence of the days long gone and people that cannot be brought back. The latter track features the astonishing effects-heavy vocalising that adds a new level of expression to the sense of Charlotte’s grief after the apparent suicide of her half-sister Kate Barry. Gainsbourg’s search for her own self in ‘I’m A Lie’ is emphasised by the nervous parts of bass guitar and harpsichord. Relatively slow and soft, this stream of songs manages to drag the listener through a deeply emotional rollercoaster that resolves with ‘Rest,’ a transparent breather that offers a moment of quiet relaxation.
While every single idea on the first half of the record is masterfully conceived and delivered, the second one falls a bit short due to its two opening tracks. ‘Sylvia Says’ and ‘Songbird In A Cage’ (written by Sir Paul McCartney) just don’t sound like they belong on ‘Rest’, being too loud and messy, deviating from the whole idea of the tender intimacy of this album. Fortunately, the final three songs, dedicated to Gainsbourg’s family and her own childhood recollections, smooth this imperfection out by returning to the familiar ground. The hidden track of Charlotte’s daughter singing at the end of ‘Les Oxalis’ concludes the album with the most unexpected and uplifting recitation of the alphabet in history, leaving the sound ringing in the air for quite some time after the music stops.
Being such a personal and uncovering collection of songs, ‘Rest’ is a treat for the dedicated fans of Charlotte Gainsbourg that serves as the document of her most intimate and vulnerable side. At the same time, thanks to the combined effort of the artist and her producer, it works remarkably well as a pop record for a much wider audience.
Outstanding work with the sound, abundance of catchy tunes and thoughtful, memorable lines make ‘Rest’ an engaging experience for any listener, guaranteed to evoke or further develop the interest for the story of the illustrious Gainsbourg family.
Words: Dmitry Teckel
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