Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest

Sir Paul McCartney, Connan Mockasin, Owen Pallett and Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel feature on the new album from Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Album Review by Lewis Wade | 13 Nov 2017
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest
Album title: Rest
Artist: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Label: Because Music
Release date: 17 Nov

Her position in the public eye since she was a child along with her successful film career has allowed Charlotte Gainsbourg to roll out music at her own leisurely pace and opened the door to a string of high profile collaborators. Rest, her first new music since 2011, boasts impressive guest stars including Paul McCartney and Owen Pallett. Importantly, it is the first time that Gainsbourg has written an album herself.

The album opens with a ludicrously breathy French verse that ambles its way to an RP English chorus of an old nursery rhyme. Both verge on parody and create a contrast that is striking in its discordance. French verses and English hooks appear several times on Rest, but none in such overstated fashion as Ring-A-Ring O'Roses.

The production work from Ed Banger's SebastiAn struggles to maintain consistency as slinky synths, euro-disco, string arrangements and orchestral flourishes appear without warning from track to track. Some ideas work better than others – Lying with You has stark, intriguing lyrics, but the theatrical arrangements detract from its candid fortrightness; Sylvia Says is bubblegum pop that simply doesn't fit.

The title track, co-written and produced by Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, finds Gainsbourg dialling down the drama, relying on sentiment rather than over-blown electronics, though it does sound creepily similar to System of a Down's Aerials. Dans Vos Airs is a late album highlight which manages to achieve a cool authenticity by leaning into Gainsbourg's chanson proclivities.

The constant changes in tone that come with such disparate collaborators mean that the album never settles into a comfortable groove the way 5:55 or IRM did (under the watchful eyes of Air and Beck, respectively). A bizarre/endearing secret track featuring Gainsbourg's daughter singing a nursery rhyme that is suddenly enveloped in glistening orchestral backing is demonstrative of the album as a whole; it's a fun idea, well-executed, but it doesn't really fit with anything else that's going on. 

Listen to: Rest, Dans Vos Airs