Jane Birkin ‘Enfants d’hiver’ (EMI) 4/5

To coincide with a much anticipated live performance in London, Jane Birkin’s latest album is a musical reflection on her childhood. Long-time pianist Fred Maggi remains from the superb 2002 CD ‘Arabesque’ which re-worked the Gainsbourg repertoire so convincingly in a Middle Eastern/North African feel. Jane Birkin has spent virtually all her adult life in France and has become the Anglo-Francaise par excellence, combining an infrequent acting career with singing. The almost whispering delivery has become her trademark and not one she is likely to foresake as illustrated on ‘Il fait nuit’. Birkin has clearly been listening to other contemporary singers and the catchy ‘Periode bleue’ is the kind of song that Carla Bruni might have attempted with instrumentation to match while ‘Prends cette main’ has a pared-down country-folk feel that is very much in vogue. Reminiscent of her Gainsbourg-produced debut ‘Di doo dah’ with use of strings is ‘Maison etoilee’. 
It is the sad side of love which is never shared that is exposed on ‘14 fevrier’ while the title track is an intimate expose of her childhood memories. Political consciousness is showcased on ‘Aung San Suu Kyi’, the sole composition sung in English. All in all a strong album and one that cements her already established reputation.

Tim Stenhouse