Following the quietly brilliant IRM would be a tough act for almost any artist, so Charlotte Gainsbourg extends the afterglow of her second album a bit longer with this collection of previously unreleased songs and live tracks. Featuring several songs culled from the sessions that birthed IRM, Stage Whisper’s studio tracks reaffirm that she and Beck struck gold with their collaboration: lead single and opening track “Terrible Angels” has an eerie-yet-sexy stomp that falls somewhere between Goldfrapp's glam shuffle and Broadcast's experimental electro-pop; later, the ballad “White Telephone” has an aloof intimacy that suggests Gainsbourg could very well be the successor to that group’s more accessible side after Trish Keenan's untimely death. While it’s easy to hear how these songs didn’t necessarily fit into the story that Gainsbourg and Beck told on IRM, they share the new life that album gave to her music. She spans “Paradisco”’s mischievous pop to the gorgeous, haunting “Memoir,” a largely acoustic collaboration with Villagers' Conor O’Brien that captures the freedom and isolation that comes after loving and leaving, with the ease and sensitivity she shows as an actress. Stage Whisper's live portion also highlights Gainsbourg's interpretive powers, as she and her band inject the previously clinical “IRM” with rock intensity and lock into the sly sensuality of 5:55's “Jamais.” Similarly, the way she switches from sweet detachment on “AF607105” to snarling on “The Operation” reflects the depth Gainsbourg reveals in concert. While its parts don’t quite come together in a way that rivals IRM, Stage Whisper is a welcome adjunct that celebrates Gainsbourg's skills in the studio and in front of an audience.
Stage Whisper Review
by Heather Phares