Charlotte Gainsbourg is, yes, an actress as well as a singer-songwriter, but don’t be so quick to group her with the other hybrids in the vein of Zooey Deschanel and Scarlett Johansson.
First of all, she’s French (woo woo). But more importantly, she’s got a lot of baggage — and in this case, that translates into some intriguing musical escapades.
Her father is legendary French pop icon and scandalmonger Serge Gainsbourg, and it’s been a struggle for her to separate from his persona and his influence. His controversial 1984 album Love on the Beat had a single called “Lemon Incest” that featured a duet with his 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte, where she half sings, half whispers creepy wordplay about her “papa.”
Thankfully, that was a long time ago.
Now, after a debut album in the late 80s and then a 20-year hiatus from recording studios, Charlotte is back. Two albums, in 2006 and 2009, reveal a different version of a girl who’s been in the limelight since birth. She surrounds herself with the right people–Air, Nigel Godrich and Beck–and her songwriting reflects the heavy beats of 80s influence while her whispery, silky-thin voice is perfectly at home in today’s indie pop scene.
Check her out on Sunday at Coachella — no guarantees as to what she’ll be like on stage, but her recent stuff points toward some interesting potential. “The Songs That We Sing,” from 2006’s 5:55, is light, and almost sweet–or as close to sweet that someone like Gainsbourg can get. 2009’s IRM, the lovely product of collaboration with Beck, was inspired by her time in an MRI machine after a cerebral hemorrhage–and its single “Heaven Can Wait” is equal parts grounded rock and otherworldly lyrics.
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Heaven Can Wait (download)
Charlotte Gainsbourg – The Songs That We Sing (download)