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Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55

Charlotte Gainsbourg, 5:55

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

CHARLOTTE Gainsbourg may best be known as an actress, following roles in 21 Grams, Mercie La Vie and the upcoming Science of Sleep.

But she’s also an accomplished singer who has been performing since the age of 13. Her father is, after all, the legendary French poet and singer, Serge Gainsbourg, while her mother is English actress Jane Birkin.

Madonna has already sampled her voice (on What It Feels Like For A Girl) and her latest album, 5:55 has been put together with the likes of Air, Jarvis Cocker and The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.

The result is utterly enchanting – quintessentially French in places but chic in the same way that much of Air’s work is.

Take opening track 5:55 as a prime example – it’s built around some shimmering piano loops and bears all the hallmarks of classic Air, albeit with Charlotte’s husky, whispered vocals guiding us through.

If you haven’t been seduced come the end of it, then clearly you’re missing a romantic spark.

The trick is repeated on the oddly-titled second track AF607105, before the pace is quickened on the shimmering The Operation which takes a sly pop at celebrity and vanity, referencing all those girls and boys that go under the knife.

Given Charlotte’s cinematic roots, it’s little wonder to find that the instrumentation on some of the tracks feels big screen orientated, as though underscoring a soundtrack – Tel Que Tu Es being a prime example.

Yet while such moments occasionally feel a little self indulgent and threaten to interrupt the generally radio-friendly flow, there’s always another instantly catchy effort waiting in the wings.

Former single and album highlight The Songs We Sing is an irresistible record – steeped in French values, yet joyful, upbeat, catchy and sexy. As a piece of mood music to impress a potential partner, husband or wife, it has very few equals – the chiming beats working perfectly in tandem with Charlotte’s subtle delivery.

Little Monsters, another firm highlight, washes over you just as effectively – the lyrics painting a vivid picture in your mind, the vocals effortlessly soothing and the swirling piano loops easing you into a relaxed kinda place.

At different points, you can spot the influence of Charlotte’s collaborators but while they never threaten to cramp the singer’s own style.

5:55 is therefore a quietly mesmerising listen, especially when at its absolute best. The odd track may not leave as lasting an impression as the very best but, for the most part, this is magnifique!

Find out more about Charlotte

Track listing:

  1. 5:55
  2. AF607105
  3. The Operation
  4. Tel Que Tu ES
  5. The Songs That We Sing
  6. Beauty Mark
  7. Little Monsters
  8. Jamais
  9. Nocturnal Intermission
  10. Everything I Cannot See
  11. Morning Song