April 20, 2006

Parisian Song Bird

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Surreal, mellow and sonorous, Keren Ann’s Not Going Anywhere is an excellent backdrop for studying, relaxing on the couch, or soaking in a claw-footed tub immersed in lavender scented bubbles with a bottle of gin. Sometimes singing in a whisper, There is an eerie element of morbidity in tone and lyric, which is appealing as its sour is cut by the sweetness of her voice and brief upbeat interludes. Her music evokes images of gypsies, caravans, and nomadic Casanovas. Her solitary voice is set against the strumming of guitar, beat of tambourine, and occasional chiming of children’s voices. Her sound is truly unique, which may turn the musically unadventurous away, but is so pleasing to the ear it will appeal to those with eclectic taste.

This French singer-song writer based in Paris and New York City imbues her music with cross-national metropolitan sophistication. Her tone, praised by critics as “sultry” and “soporific,” may cause listeners to prioritize learning the skill of “French inhaling” cigarettes. A smash it in Europe, Not Going Anywhere marks her first album with English lyrics. The themes she concentrates on remain the same as she says, “I guess I get obsessed with certain things like absence, lust, longing. They come back through different stories and different characters. But I also like how it stays mysterious.”

Ann’s songs have a sort of Brothers Grimm fairy tale feel. In the song “Sailor and Widow” the widow, “managed to cry but to never feel blame/ For the death of her husband who died in a flame/ By the house of the river/ Although he remained/ At a reasonable distance.” The story, when observed closely, is about a woman who pathologically murders her lovers and invents children, but it sounds really pretty despite the disturbing lyrics.

Each track is equally delicious to the ear as it is to the imagination. We get an idea of where her soft and unadorned voice comes from when she says, “this is why I always whisper/ When vagabonds are passing by/ I tend to keep myself away from their goodbye.” Artists should always encourage risky behavior, which she does when she lulls, “close your eyes and roll a dice/ Under the board there’s a compromise/ If after all we only live twice/ Which is the runroad to paradise.” This album is not for those who are looking for the hardy stock of the unoriginal and widely accepted top 20. However, if you want to know what’s musically hot in Paris, give it a spin.

Archived article by Claire Readhead