French singer/songwriter Keren Ann moved to New York to record the follow-up to her English-language debut, Not Going Anywhere. She settled in the area north of Little Italy, i.e. Nolita, hence the title of her second release. While her first two recordings were in French, Nolita is in both languages (pre-production took place in Paris). It's a quieter, more intimate affair than previous efforts, but just as lovely. Like Brazilian vocalist Astrud Gilberto or Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval, Keren Ann never shouts when a whisper will do and the music throughout could even be described as "whispery" (as opposed to, say, wispy): gently strummed guitars, delicate strings, spare percussion. There is one song, however, on which she does not take the lead: actor Sean Gullette (Pi) recites the spooky "Song of Alice," John Cale-style, while Keren Ann provides backing vocals. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
that whispers to you like a Jane Siberry or a Julie Cruise
mystery and some great French singing attitude, to music with some American flavor thrown in (check out the harmonica). Like
the movie "Carnival of Souls" back in the 60's, errie keyboards in some songs but
beautiful music in others, whispers over multi-vocal parts. Keren Ann is a songwriter, musician and has more attitude
to steer these songs along and make them all work with one another.
This is all her work, she's not there to just sit in for some
famous producer, SHE does it all for the most part. The
musicans are very sensitive to her style and blend seamlessly. This is
her second US recording as she has been doing collections over
in Europe(France). As stated some songs on NOLITA have macabre keyboards
floating around that give them their uniquness others like one my many favs "LA forme et le fond" are striking the way they have layed all these various
instruments working against each other,and the French singing
is so beautiful, La forme et le fond in particular has some parts where their is louder instruments working against the
plugging strings, violins, opera singing against a folk guitar
cords. Its a 60's trip through chill and some chamber music and
its has a slow, lax presentation(check out the last spoken song with Sean Gullette, strange, but its great stuff, cut
after cut all different, often hard to describe, I keep listening to this as it has
a way of getting under your skin, its a rare beauty, surely one
of the most interesting collections of songs and vocals to come by in
quite a while. An Artist to watch!
Puzzles me why she is not more well known since she is simply amazing.
You will not regret it.
The songs all have pretty much the same dirge-like tempo and the same earnest vocal treatments, however, which wouldn't be a detriment if the lyrics were deep and complicated and sought an emotional connection. Verses like "land slides and grips onto a side rock/fool's got eyes/and I don't" (from Roses & Hips), however, just seem opaque, as if they had been translated from Dutch to Hebrew to French to German to English.
For a record named after a hoppin', thrivin' New York neighborhood smack in the middle of a bunch of other distinctive neighborhoods, "Nolita" sounds curiously pure and refined. Didn't Keren Ann ever get a little kick from hearing "In Da Club" blasting out of someone's hooptie stalled in traffic on the Bowery, or the sounds of Chinese fishmongers gossiping?