...Sultry baroque-folk chanteuse, Keren Ann, has an exotic, multi-faceted sound...
Chris White 2007-06-01
Israeli-born, French-raised and New York-based, sultry baroque-folk chanteuse Keren Ann has an exotic, multi-faceted sound with wide range of influences that reflects her cosmopolitan past.
Born in 1974 of mixed Javanese, Dutch, Russian and Israeli parentage, Keren Ann Zeidel moved to Paris at the age of 11 and her early recordings, notably debut La Biographie de Luka Philipsen, reek of Gallic sensuality in the vein of Francoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg. But a move to the Big Apple in 2004 seems to have inspired a shift in style, which, coupled with the decision to sing solely in English rather than French (she included tracks in both languages on last release Nolita), may herald a bid to achieve more mainstream success.
This self-titled and self-produced fifth album, while still mellow and relaxed in vibe, features more electric guitar than ever before and bears the unmistakeable mark of Manhattan’s most revered avant-garde rockers, The Velvet Underground. Flagship single ‘Lay Your Head Down’ starts out like ‘Waiting For The Man’ sung by Lou Reed’s younger sister before gradually building into a Kate Bush-inspired mellifluous mélange of chopping strings and floating female harmonies, underpinned by handclaps and bluesy harmonica. It’s the undoubted highlight in a set of unremarkable compositions which, while intricately textured throughout, struggle to find an original voice.
So elsewhere, as well as more Velvets and a dire slab of 80s electro-funk on ‘'Caspia'’, you’ll hear Mazzy Star (‘'It’s All A Lie'’) and Beth Gibbons of Portishead ('‘The Harder Ships of the World’' and '‘Where No Endings End'’) but picking out Keren Ann herself is an altogether more difficult task. Only on ‘In Your Back’ do we see the more distinctive artist of previous works make a welcome reappearance, and this track’s languorous, crepuscular feel allows the singer to display a seductive grace sadly absent elsewhere.
But overall, for all its creator’s obvious ambition and talents as an arranger, most of the songs on Keren Ann just aren’t strong or memorable enough to make the album stand out among the host of other female singer-songwriters jostling for attention in today’s competitive marketplace.