Album Review: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Stage Whisper (2012 LP)

Charlotte Gainsbourg is perhaps better known for her recent successful acting career, having starred in the award winning Antichrist and Lars von Trier’s latest, Melancholia. But Stage Whisper reminds us that she is also an acclaimed singer too. A stop-gap album of sorts, Gainsbourg’s fourth full length release features unreleased tracks from her 2009 IRM and a series of live songs, collected from her 2010 tour across Europe.

Despite some notable singing highlights (her most famous is probably the – somewhat questionably named – duet with father Serge Gainsbourg, “Lemon Incest”), Charlotte still remains in the shadows as a singer. Regardless, she has attracted some remarkable contributors – her loungy, French-flavoured second LP 5’55 was composed by electronica duo Air, while her more electro-pop IRM had the very skilled helping hands of Beck.

The two-disc Stage Whisper could be considered a companion release to the previous two albums, with disc one comprising previously unreleased tracks from IRM, and a selection of live favourites from the two albums on disc two. Beck’s compositions make up the bulk of the first disc and is a fine showcase of his usual eclectic style – “Terrible Angels” is a sexy, Goldfrapp-esque electro pop number, while “Anna” evokes a moodier Bat For Lashes feel with its sitar riff, galactic sound and catchy chorus. But the other tracks definitely shouldn’t be be overlooked. Charlotte also worked with Noah and the Whale, who gives the album its best track – and a beautiful vocals offset with Charly Fink’s voice – with “Got To Let Go”.

The strengths of Charlotte’s records are the meticulous way her tracks are produced and the brilliant musicianship behind it; it suffers a little in a more raw, live setting. Still, the live disc is a nice introduction to Charlotte’s previous work, for the more unfamiliar – featured here are some of her better tracks, like robotic/electric “Set Yourself on Fire”, and “Jamais” from 5’55.

While Charlotte may have creative talent in her blood, her unemotive voice, although finely tuned and soothing, tends to let her down. She has been fortunate enough to have some strong names at the musical helm behind her, but it doesn’t seem enough just yet.

Review Score: 6.5 out of 10