2. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rest (Because Music)
The story behind the creation of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s first studio album in seven years was total critic-bait: following the tragic death of her sister, photographer Kate Barry in 2013 Gainsbourg relocated from Paris to New York and started collaborating with producer Sebastian Akchoté, best known for his work with Frank Ocean, in an effort to channel her sadness into music. Whether making music or acting, Gainsbourg has always been fearless, throwing herself into her art fully, which more often than not results in bravura performances, and the resulting album Rest is just that, and it’s understandable that music critics were over the moon. From a personal standpoint, this album clicked on many levels. Yes, Gainsbourg’s melancholy tributes to her sister are heart-wrenching (especially “Kate” and “Rest”), but she and Akchoté have created music that honours Charlotte’s famous parents Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, delves into much darker territory, turns up the funk, and ends up sounding completely unique and her own. The vocal phrasing and melodies are totally reminiscent of Serge and Jane (“Rest” sounds uncannily like something Birkin might have done in the early-1970s, “Les Crocodiles” greatly resembles Serge’s work circa Melody Nelson) as are the gently loping arrangements by Akchoté. Other tracks like “Lying With You” and “Deadly Valentine” have a more gothic tone, bringing to mind the great cinematic band Goblin. “Sylvia Says” is a groovy interpretation of a Sylvia Plath song, while “Songbird in a Cage” is an inspired collaboration with none other than Paul McCartney (hey, when Paul McCartney gifts a song to you, you record it!). In the end Rest succeeds not only because of the intent of the project, but also because it so assuredly adopts an eclectic array of styles while maintaining a strong sense of consistency throughout. It’s a triumphant work of art.