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Nolita (2004)

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Keren Ann

Keren Ann Zeidel relocated to New York between the release of Not Going Anywhere and Nolita (which, more than anything else, stands for moving just north of Little Italy). Nolita also marks her separation from creative partner Benjamin Biolay. While pre-production for Nolita began in France -- and indeed, half the tracks here are in French -- the album was finished in her new home country. She produced it herself. These songs are different than the hip lullabies of Not Going Anywhere. The music here is breezy still -- there's so much air and whisp in her voice and in the arrangements one can get the impression the music is literally floating by -- but there is weight in the lyrics and in the instrumentation. And while Zeidel's songwriting may be graced by the kisses of many of her influences, from Astrud Gilberto to Joni Mitchell to Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin to Belle and Sebastian, her music here is her own, and it unwraps itself very, very slowly. The French cuts stand out, such as the dreamy, seductive ballad "L'Onde Amere," with Avishai Morin's trumpet playing Chet Baker to her Françoise Hardy. Likewise the Mellotron, bass and electric guitar saunter that introduces "La Forme et le Fond," feels more like samba meets backbeat conscious post-rock at a snail's pace. However, taken as a whole, Nolita is utterly beguiling. It is assured, statuesque, and fully realized. It captures moments, single moments, and stretches them out as it imprints on the mind and in the heart of the listener. ~ Thom Jurek