The Science of Sweet
It’s hard to find the right words to describe singer-songwriter Charlotte Gainsbourg’s latest release without letting some slip by about her father, music legend Serge Gainsbourg. Much like the music of her father, Charlotte’s IRM is very reminiscent of his often varied, but distinctly French-pop stylings.
Tracks “Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes” and “In the End” possess a very cinematic quality not unlike most French pop, minus the bubblegum, while retaining the lush, string-filled orchestral production. “Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes” bears striking similarities to Spaghetti Western composer Ennio Morricone’s “Un Amico,” as featured in Inglourious Basterds. The Joan Baez plucking, whispery vocals, and dreamlike xylophone of “In The End” feel they would be right at home playing behind Gainsbourg’s performance in Science of Sleep. Not a bad start at all.
“Heaven Can Wait,” a cute and catchy, but dangerously sultry folks-blues single pairs a wonderfully placed Beck (who also produced the album) singing tandem with our star. Perhaps Beck can take a few tips from Gainsbourg’s dad and duet more often. Behind their voices is the usual jam session arsenal: a heavy thudding backbeat, acoustic guitar, horns, keys, and an aggressive tambourine popping out loud and crisp.
“Dandelion” yet again features soft, whispery vocals, but over a subtle blues riff only regaining its French-ness when the string quartet finds its way between all the dust and dirt.
Simply going down the list of tracks, listeners begin to realize IRM’s ability to sport all sorts of vintage flavors, including folk, blues, country, and even Imogen Heap’s brand of quirky pop with tracks like “Voyage,” which sports the ever-growing popular African sound found in recent releases by The Very Best and Vampire Weekend.
In the end, like the final track “La Collectionneuse” and its possible reference to the French New Wave film of the same name might suggest, maybe Gainsbourg isn’t collecting boys, but the sounds, moods, textures, and visions that make a solid and satisfyingly sweet pop album.