The daughter of legendary French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg and English model-musician Jane Birkin, actress-musician Charlotte Gainsbourg returns with her fourth studio album, Rest.
While most would have been overshadowed by their parents, especially her father’s international notoriety, Gainsbourg has carved out an art house niche all her own. In her early teens, she released her first solo album, Charlotte For Ever, while acting in her first films and picking up awards like the César for Most Promising Young Actress.
Fast forward through the ’90s and into the 2000s where Gainsbourg continued to be revered for her film work and while working on a new picture for Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) she began collaborating with Air, Javis Cocker, Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy) and Nigel Godrich (Radiohead) on her sophomore album, 5:55.
Next followed the Beck-produced IRM, featuring “Time of the Assassins,” “Heaven Can Wait” and perhaps one of the sexiest songs ever, “Trick Pony.” Around the same time her controversial film, Antichrist, directed by Lars von Trier and co-starring Willem Dafoe premiered. Gainsbourg would later appear in another controversial von Trier film, Nymphomaniac, which includes her rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.”
In 2011’s Stage Whisper, Gainsbourg introduced us to the seductive melody that runs through “Anna,” heavenly French dance track “Paradisco,” along with other unreleased studio recordings from the IRM sessions and live material recorded during her European tour.
Which finally brings us to Rest, a collection of songs about loss, childhood fears, pleasure and her most personal work to date. Although this is Gainsbourg’s fourth record, it welcomes in an important first. While her debut was written by her father, 5:55 by Javis Crocker and IRM penned by Beck, Rest is mostly written by Gainsbourg. She had dreamed of composing her own material, secretly recording phrases and lyrics here and there, but when asked by a collaborator to share her work she shied away, until now.
“I always felt that looking at Charlotte was like looking into a very still pond under which you knew there was great agitation and great conflict. It came out in her films, but in songs, she’s stayed quite prudent until now. On this record, it seems to me that she has ripped all the bandages off. It’s one of the most sincere and brave albums I’ve ever heard,” Jane Birkin told the New York Times.
Gainsbourg, now living in New York, moved from Paris in 2014 after her older half sister, Kate Barry (Jane Birkin’s daughter with composer John Barry), fell from her fourth floor apartment in Paris and died. On the album, “Kate” is a bittersweet tribute filled with “all this sadness she had. All the different feelings she had, we used,” shared SebastiAn, who produced the album. It was also around the time of her sister’s passing that the somber lullaby “Rest” was recorded with Daft Punk’s Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo in Paris.
Continuing to refine the album in New York, Gainsbourg and SebastiAn moved to Manhattan’s Electric Lady Land studio where Owen Pallett wrote string arrangements for several songs and the Paul McCartney provided the upbeat groove in “Songbird in a Cage.” Rest was completed last December, but delayed almost a year so Gainsbourg could direct the album’s accompanying music videos, another first. Watch “Deadly Valentine” above and purchase/stream Rest here.