Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Album Review - IRM, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Now published over at Running In Heels.

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s new album is sexy, moody and slightly disturbing.

It has been well documented that the title track of ‘IRM’ (Imagerie par Résonance Magnétique) or MRI in English is based on the noises she heard inside said MRI machine. It probably says a lot about the artist that when faced with being scanned to establish the seriousness of the brain hemorrhage picked up after taking a fall water skiing, Gainsbourg thought —I could make music with this.

Indeed the lyrics “can you see a memory?" "register all my fear" and "tell me where the trauma lies," continue the macabre tone of the track and indeed give an impression of the moody overtones of the album in general.

Another moody although less dark track is Le Chat du Café des Artistes (above) a cover of Jean-Pierre Ferland’s classic. Gainsbourg’s trademark hushed and sexy tones, the piano chords and sweeping strings give an ominous almost film-noir soundtrack impression. And as a fan of another of the song’s incarnations, this time the French DJ Gut’s version, this is one of the best tracks on the album for me.

Other tracks such as ‘Vanities’ whip up a dreamy atmosphere with other worldly harps and orchestra sections quietly battling against each other

Then there are the songs like ‘Master’s Hands’ ‘Me and Jane Doe’ and ‘Heaven Can Wait’ which giveaway the influences and presence of American star Beck in the role of producer. And this is no bad thing, they are all pleasing and cleverly arranged pop songs with a definite leaning towards an acoustic sound.

And changing tracks entirely and literally ‘Looking Glass Blues’, ‘Trick Pony’ and ‘Greenwich Mean Time’ offer up an unashamedly indie rock vibe but even these cannot help but continue the theme of a kind of sexy moodiness which feels inherent across the entire album.

Charlotte Gainsbourg has never quite had the level of recognition she deserves in the UK despite being a popular musical figure in her native France and the States. She certainly can’t be accused of simply riding on the coat tails of her infamous Father Serge especially after her collaborations with electronic efficandos Air but maybe IRM — with its ‘something for everyone’ appeal will be the album to introduce her to British music fans.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Album review - One Life Stand, Hot Chip

Now published over at Running In Heels.

Hot Chip's latest album recaptures what made them so exciting in 2006 and then some.

One Life Stand is the latest offering from the unlikely group of electro-pop geeks who have carved themselves a massive reputation and fan base since the release of their hit album ‘The Warning’ in 2006. This album will not disappoint fans; it has highs and lows but in tempo only not in quality. And overall this is an album made for the dance floor and a few hundred revelers.

It starts out with the sorts of noises that we have come to expect from Hot Chip who have steadily got better and better throughout their three smash albums.

However, the band appear to have transcended some of their previous work and branch out into new areas such as in 'I Feel Better' which has a Euro dancey vibe and 'Brothers' - a ballad to the brotherhood felt between bands touring together on the road.

'We Have Love' screams out as being the party smash on the album, the one that will probably be remixed again and again by the likes of Erol Alkan. It's very much the new 'Ready For The Floor’, which got partygoers stomping along to like mad in 2008. As will 'Take It In' - essentially a nod to house music but also managing to flit between grimy bass lines, 90's dance-influenced riffs and a puffy pop chorus.

The title track 'One Life Stand' seems to encapsulate best where Hot Chip are right now. The sound is unmistakably Hot Chip, as is obvious as soon as the synthy riffs start up along with Alexis Taylor's distinctive voice. But there are extra nuances thrown in. There appears to be a renewed keenness for experimenting with different beats, a bit of disco here as well as dreamy backing vocals supplied by Joe Goddard there. It's all thrown into the mix.

This album sounds great right now but some of the tracks will be best appreciated under the warm sun of summer time. Extra finesses on the album such as the use of steel pans will be extra pertinent to the summer festival crowd, to which Hot Chip are certainly going to appeal in 2010.