The half-live, half-studio double-album Stage Whisper is the sort of overly padded stopgap release that record companies frequently trot out between proper albums. For the understated singer-songwriter Charlotte Gainsbourg, Whisper comes after 2009’s well-regarded IRM, and with just seven new songs (out of 19 tracks), the studio half of the record comes off like a handful of potential singles backed with some passable IRM outtakes. “Terrible Angels” is a synth-covered strut in the vein of prime Goldfrapp, and one of the liveliest songs Gainsbourg has leant her voice to. The sleek, tastefully gaudy “Paradisco” goes even further in the dance-music vein, and proves that despite the restrained backing she’s favored in the studio, her voice won’t wilt when paired with something with some push to it.
Gainsbourg’s career as a live performer has only begun in earnest in recent years, so the concert portion of Whisper feels like unnecessary extras on an already slight release. None of the live versions vary much from their recorded counterpoints—give or take a livelier drum sound—and there’s no evidence that Gainsbourg is the type to burn the stage to the ground with her intensity. Instead, she slowly changes the temperature of the room with her dedication to the power of subtle, breathy coos that slowly draw listeners in. As the best and worst parts of Stage Whisper show, Gainsbourg is at her best when she’s not overdoing it.