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Sunday, April 10, 2005


Keren Ann: "Nolita"

Last summer, Keren Ann Zeidel, who was born in Israel and raised in Paris, built on the cosmopolitan rep she's developed over several French-language albums of quiet singer-songwriter pop with the all-English "Not Going Anywhere," her first CD to be released outside of France.

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Recorded in her apartments in Paris and New York, the follow-up, "Nolita," splits the linguistic divide to excellent effect. The French tunes are haunting, bossa nova-inflected and a little corny (swooning backing vocals, etc.), while the English songs are dry and languid, showcasing Zeidel's stated preference for romantic indirection. "Whether we were lost or overwhelmed," she suggests to a past lover, "nobody knows that I'm better off." Touche. The title cut is both vaguer and more ominous, sliding from the barely articulated line, "Think I'm going to marry you," into a seething ocean of strings.

Though she barely breaks a whisper, Zeidel is no wilting flower. The self-confidence evident in her choice of words, in her assured folk melodies and, most importantly, in her restrained, crystalline production bespeaks a woman who has not only seen enough of the world, but feels comfortable there. Alone.

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