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Charlotte Gainsbourg “Everything I Cannot See”

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: .

After receiving Charlotte Gainsbourg’s 5:55 from a friend back in January I sat on it for a while; much was going on, and exciting times meant that it became easy to overlook many substantial releases that the year was readying. Only casually listening to the album once or twice over the next two months little of its detail and character were able to grow on me; however, all of this changed with the release of Air’s most recent album Pocket Symphony.

Though not a substantial release in terms of its critical reception the album revived my interest in the French duo, and too my interest in Gainsbourg. After all, I thought, along with the written and vocal contributions from Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon as well as production from Nigel Godrich of Radiohead fame, Air was responsible for much of the music on 5:55. Also, I thought, could the 300,000 fans who had purchased the album in Gainsbourg’s native France all be wrong? Probably not.

Having enjoyed Pocket Symphony so much it only made sense to at least give it another try. Whether it be simple timing or cosmic interference, 5:55 finally began making sense. I believe it was while cooking (if boiling noodles can be considered cooking) where I discovered my love for the Cocker-penned “Everything I Cannot See,” a song hidden deep within the singer’s first album in some twenty years.

As a whole “Everything” is something similar to that of the album’s singles, “5:55″ and “The Songs That We Sing,” however it offers noticeable musical and lyrical differences that distance it from the rest of the album. “5:55″ has a sound far closer to that typically considered French-pop, something similar to that of her father’s musical legacy, a sound that, like her name, supersedes anything she might create. “The Songs That We Sing” is entirely different and in the given context sounds odd when surrounded by the rest of the album’s cast of songs. It’s acoustic guitar, drums and bells combined with her legacy-distancing English lyrics, while all kindhearted and stunning, seem lost and out of place. Not bad by any means, just different.

The song itself is entirely fantastic by its musical interface alone. Its rolling piano quickly surpasses its acoustic guitar introduction though slowing down shortly thereafter. Appearing to having gotten ahead of itself the piano meets the guitar half way, introducing one of the most contagious pieces of music I have heard all year (decade?). The slow beat that creeps in behind the pair adds substantial body to the song that isn’t necessarily focused on at first glance, but repeated listens prove it absolutely vital.

The song’s lyrics are entirely a twist, pulling one’s mind back and forth between the contradictions that accompany both love and lust. The progressive musical lead brilliantly focuses the listener on the chorus which is repeated time and time again just as one stays awake, echoing the same set of words over and over through their head when trapped in the world inevitable doubt and despair that forever accompanies love. The song – proof further proof of Jarvis Cocker’s brilliance, and its delivery – proof that, despite Gainsbourg’s acting contributions over the past two decades, we may have missed out on what could have been one of the most substantial careers in modern pop music.