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Charlotte Gainsbourg’s IRM

March 1, 2010

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s third album, IRM, is a welcome breath of fresh air. Produced and co-written by Beck, IRM is a fascinating blend of electronica meets gritty rock meets folk. It is far more accessible than her last effort, 5:55, but still maintains that dreamy atmosphere that is just oh-so-French. The sound is still edgy but, unlike 5:55 she manages to teeter on that edge rather than plummeting off of it. Its mood, dark and contemplative, is fitting for an album created after Gainsbourg’s brush with death in 2007, when she suffered a hemorrhage after a water-skiing accident. (IRM is the French acronym for MRI and the machine’s influences are heard throughout the album.) Her delicate voice is a perfect accompaniment to Beck’s lyrics and signature use of diverse instrumentation. In fact, the album can at times read as more of a Beck album with a female singer, but it’s difficult to tell if Gainsbourg’s vision is really lost. Since all of her musical endeavors have been collaborations, one could argue we don’t really know what her point of view actually is. Thankfully, the emotion and personal meditation following her incident is infused in every song, even if those words aren’t entirely her own. The match creates something unique, a rare feat in today’s music scene, and there really isn’t a clunker in the bunch. “Heaven Can Wait” is a perfect single, giving a hint of what’s to come with more of a pop-driven catchiness. The rest of the songs are an interesting medley of styles from front-porch blues, (“Dandelion”) to grrl-rock references, (“Greenwich Mean Time”) to chanteuse dreamscapes  (“La Collectionneuse”). So let Gainsbourg carry you into her world; there will certainly be something to suit your tastes there.

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