Charlotte Gainsbourg

5:55 (WEA)

Sure, the pairing of this superstar French actress with the adventurous electronic duo Air is bound to send novelty lovers and Francophiles into throes of self-lubricating excitement. But they're not the only ones with a hand in 5:55. The presence of famed Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and Fela Kuti alumnus Tony Allen (and lyrics by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker) should inspire a moistening twinge of curiosity in discriminating listeners too. So if Gainsbourg doesn't write the words or the music, then what does she do? Well, she gives it voice — a dark, passionate voice; listeners have every reason to hope to see the seedy underside of Air. But because the music's sumptuous atmospheres get pushed too far back in the mix, 5:55 comes off like a screen test, with Gainsbourg's whispery, suggestively grim evocations occupying way too much space up front. Meanwhile, Air's contributions dangle like a casually placed backdrop. Had Gainsbourg been presented as part of the scenery, 5:55 might sound suitably lifelike to convey its tangled emotions. Then again, this music does make a perfect soundtrack for seducing suitably frosty and slightly pretentious 20-something girls. Just don't act surprised when you feel empty in the morning.

 
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