Keren Ann Zeidel's self-titled fifth studio album (third in English) is, if you've never heard her, something new. If you're looking for something a little deeper, varied, and against the norm...look no further. Basically Zeidel oscillates between and incorporates elements of a contemporary Mazzy Star (a la So Tonight That I Might See), an unassuming under-the-radar folk-pop princess, and a guitar-playing chanteuse. The result is an entirely unique sound: one that changes from song to song but remains undeniably her. As Q Magazine (7/01/07) stated, the album "remains resolutely unconcerned with commercial clutter. Its nine songs are introspective and exclusively indifferent to anything outside its own self-created world."
For some reason, this album sucks you into that world; it is essential to listen to the album straight through, because the songs move you from one feeling to another, like stops along a journey through an emotional and imagerial dream. In the first two tracks, I felt like I was trapped in a dark cell, then released into a sun-lit, breezy garden with a view of the sea. She takes you sailing, down a slummy alleyway, into a cabaret, and floating across the sea (in a song that reminds me very much of Moby's "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters"), then reflects on it in a fun and completely carefree epilogue...all in 43 minutes.
Her voice is smokey, laden with a distinct flavor of complexity (in its variations between hopeless depression and euphoria), but also pronouncedly delicate. The instrumentation is somewhat minimal, but very diverse, ranging from typical rock-band elements, to backing orchestral and choral arrangments, beautiful piano, and even some twangy guitar (reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang," e.g.). A common criticism that I hear of many bands is that "all their songs sound the same;" well, my feelings on that statement notwithstanding, none of these songs (even her voice in each one) sound alike.
I recommend this album highly, especially since it's best experienced as a whole. Check out the tracks on her myspace, especially the album's first single "Lay Your Head Down," and a video of my favorite track from the album, "The Harder Ships of the World" (it's not an official video, but you get to hear the song).