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When You Grow Up (2011)

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Priscilla Ahn

There’s no denying Priscilla Ahn’s voice. Crystalline and pitch-perfect, it’s the sort of classic-sounding soprano that belongs to an earlier decade, when folksingers wore flowers in their hair and sang songs about free love. Ahn is the product of a more current generation, but she fills her second album with songs that are just as timeless, from stripped-down Laurel Canyon folk tunes to lightly orchestrated chamber pop ballads. There’s plenty of acoustic guitar here, as well as soft splashes of piano, lap steel, and strings, but Ahn’s vocals are the focal point. She saturates When You Grow Up with double- and triple-tracked harmonies, and most of the songs’ instrumental hooks are sung rather than played, creating a sound that’s ornate but still intimate. She duets with Charlie Wadhams on “I Don’t Have Time to Be in Love,” tips her hat to former collaborator Benji Hughes with a slow, sexy cover of “Vibe So Hot,” and co-writes with singers like Inara George, Sia Furler, and Eleni Mandell on some of the album’s best songs. Yet despite the heavy guest list, When You Grow Up still feels more personal than Ahn’s 2008 debut, which found her dabbling in indie pop, torch songs, and Norah Jones-styled jazz. She focuses on folk this time around, consolidating her strengths while exploring every quirky corner of the genre. ~ Andrew Leahey