Charlotte Gainsbourg

Rest

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Charlotte Gainsbourg probed the inner workings of her mind and her fear of mortality on IRM; on Rest, she eloquently explores the aftermath of loss. She was so grief-stricken after the 2013 death of her half-sister Kate Barry -- who fell from a fourth-floor apartment window -- that she relocated her family to New York City for a fresh start. That feeling of accepting loss, but not being consumed by it, dwells within every aspect of Rest; even its title speaks to the many layers of stillness and rejuvenation within its songs. Gainsbourg is an expert at confronting and expressing difficult emotions in her film roles, and the same can be said for her work as a musician on this album. She sounds more in control of her voice than ever before, and for good reason: Gainsbourg wrote Rest's lyrics after years of not feeling ready to share her own words with the world. She addresses the loss of her sister and the death of her father, Serge Gainsbourg, when she was 19 like a true artist, transforming her pain and love into moving, surprising songs. Rest is bookended with allusions to childhood: "Ring-a-Ring O' Roses"' moody symphonic pop alludes to the darker undercurrents of its titular nursery rhyme, and a version of the alphabet song is tucked after the shimmering "Les Oxalis." In between, Gainsbourg offers a fragile but unflinching portrait of her father on his deathbed with "Lying with You" and a flurry of memories of her sister on "Kate," where she laments, "We should grow old together/Our imperfect world." On both of these songs and throughout Rest, she draws listeners close with whispery vocals that evoke her father's signature style, while her collaborators, Sebastian Akchoté and Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, remain true to the roots of her music and their own French Touch fundamentals. De Homem-Christo sets Gainsbourg's yearning vocals to a heartbeat-like pulse on the title track, which serves as the album's centerpiece as well as the hinge that allows it to swing into lighter, bolder territory. On the album's second half, Gainsbourg moves on from sadness. The funky "Sylvia Says" captures the moment when joy must return, while "Songbird in a Cage," a collaboration with Paul McCartney, is one of her boldest tracks and an organic evolution from IRM's experiments. A lesser musician might not be able to handle the album's shift from funereal ballads to celebratory dance and pop, but Gainsbourg makes it all sound natural -- and more purposeful than any of her previous music. With Rest, she grows more fearless as an artist while facing her losses, and the future, with courage and love.

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