New Music Friday Vol. 9

A modern French chanteuse, an honorable lady of American roots, and an Australian Christmas elf...


Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest

Listening to the three albums that Charlotte Gainsbourg has released in the past decade is a bit like getting a very brief journey through the evolution of the past ten years of indie-pop. With French twist.

Gainsbourg is a French actress, singer, and daughter of legendary singer Serge Gainsbourg. Her album 5:55, released in 2006 is moody rainy day alt-pop. She whispers gentle melodies in a way that feels very French, and the album is a brand of indie-pop from a decade ago that's heavy on piano and strings. 

Her next album, IRM, from 2010, is a little more indie, and a little less French. By that, I mean she sounds like she's targeting an American audience with less of her own French language on the album, adopting a little more pop, and the piano and strings fade a bit while she leans a bit more into guitar as a primary color.

Now on her latest, she's fully on-trend, embracing synths as the main instrumental drivers, and parts of the album are unapologetically pop-y. Some of the album, though in French, is heavy and personal, but other tracks are fun, like "Deadly Valentine" below, which has a funky little disco beat. 

Also, Paul McCartney wrote a song for the album ("Songbird in a Cage") and played piano, bass, and guitar on the track. And it's fantastic.

Mavis Staples - If All I Was Was Black

Mavis Staples began singing in her father's famous family band, the Staple Singers, 70 years ago, began making her own records nearly 50 years ago, and she's still doing great work. This album is the third in a line of collaborations with Wilco front-man Jeff Tweedy. Tweedy wrote the songs for the album and his production is appropriately rootsy and bluesy.

While the GRAMMY-winning duo's previous two projects have been predominantly lighthearted, as the title might suggest, this album has more heft and tackles a few of our current social dilemmas. Coming from a seasoned and respected voice, many of her sentiments provide moments for reflection. On the title track, she sings, "It's time for more love." I know that's right. 

Sia  - Everyday is Christmas

A person could be forgiven for wondering if the world needs yet another Christmas album. I say yes. Especially and definitely if that album includes newly written Christmas songs. Every year, the same old tired recordings get dragged out and we end up battered by them. The classics are wonderful, and I still love them, but an occasional fresh take on an old warhorse is a welcome reprieve. 

But if a good songwriter is willing to tackle the monumental task of crafting new Christmas songs, well then obviously we get the potential of a new classic. What if Mariah hadn't recorded "All I Want For Christmas?" Maybe you'd be happy because you're tired of it, and I'll forgive you for that. Anything overplayed grows wearisome, but I truly love that tune.

So now the quirky, enigmatic Sia releases her take on the unrelenting holiday. It won't be Andy Williams, but we already have him.

Do you have any favorite modern classics in the Christmas category?

Brian HinmanComment