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Charlotte Gainsbourg: IRM


Charlotte Gainsbourg

Album: IRM
Label: Because Music/Elektra

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Beck produced, composed, and wrote most of the lyrics for Charlotte Gainsbourg’s new IRM, so cynical listeners might assume that all the star of Antichrist brought to the table were audio samples of an MRI machine (from which the album gets its title) and the looming legacy of her provocateur father, Serge Gainsbourg. Three tracks in, though, it becomes clear she’s more than just the sum of her famous genes. With a voice that dips from eerie sing-song on “Master’s Hands” to breathy pillow-talk for “Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes” to a Beck-approved monotone during “IRM,” Gainsbourg deftly resets the emotional thermostat with every lilt of her nimble, witty vocals. In “La Collectionneuse,” they’re as chilly as a doctor’s office, underscoring the song’s repetitive piano lines as they build to emotionless crescendos between 16-bit bass grooves. “Trick Pony” comes on like a narcotized version of The Black Keys’ “Set You Free,” its thick electric guitar belching—then squealing—as Gainsbourg makes smirking allusions to the 12-bar blues standard “See See Rider.” A brain hemorrhage following a water-skiing accident inspired IRM, but references to the accident are mostly oblique—all the better, since the random horror-movie stingers and ping-ponging percussion of a track like “Vanities” evoke someone’s last day on Earth better than anything so frank as a lyric.