Stage Whisper is two albums in one, a leftovers album and a live recording. Overall, this is not Charlotte Gainsbourg's best effort, IRM and 5:55 are much better albums.
The album has 19 tracks. The first eight are from studio recorded leftover sessions as collaborated with on with Beck. The studio sessions are like the bonus features on a DVD, the deleted scenes. Sometimes those deleted scenes are outstanding and add new light to the film. Most times, those scenes were deleted for a good reason. Sadly, these first eight tracks should have been left on the editing room floor.
IRM is an amazing album; over a year later I still listen to that album frequently. It is on heavy rotation on my media player. I love Charlotte Gainsbourg, she is an incredible actress and I think an amazing singer, she blends the best of her mother Jane Birkin (breathless seventies sex kitten) and her father Serge Gainsbourg. But darn it to all, these latest songs just have no passion, no hooks, no catchy phrasing. A few tracks are littered with a male singer and others with electronica dance trance music. All the songs are in English, this is potentially a good thing for Americans, however her voice struggles with the words. This is such a letdown from her previous two albums.
The live sessions are no better. One reason I rediscovered Charlotte Gainsbourg was her performance January 25, 2010 of Trick Pony on David Letterman. That was gritty, passionate, emotional, driving, and got me really excited and curious about her new album. The live recordings on this disc feel like she was going through the motions and phoned in the performance. I'm a huge fan of live performances, the songs shouldn't sound like the studio recordings - they should be full of life and excitement. Instead this album has a bunch of sterile attempts at doing the studio version live. Where she changes things up a bit, the songs go slower, quieter, and lower tone.
By far the worst song on this album is her interpretation of Bob Dylan's Just Like A Woman. The song stumbles along. She misses some notes. The arrangement is slower and jerky. I'm not a fan of this song at all.
There are a few nice songs on this album. Overall, though, I'm disappointed with this effort. If you are a Charlotte Gainsbourg fan and absolutely have to own everything she has ever done, this will fill out your collection. Or if you are Beck completist, this will have to land in your collection. If, on the other hand, you are curious about this amazing woman and interested in some good music, then IRM or 5:55 are a much better choice.