Meet miss Leona Naess. Five years to the day after her eponymous 2003 release, this English/American songwriter graced upon the world Thirteens, the culmination of the thirteen lo-fi albums she recorded since her last.
I bought this album, which was released September 16th, on the heels of two let-downs I'd bought the week prior, so I was hoping for something substantial. I was not disappointed: from the first track, I knew this girl was for real. I've been listening to a lot of female artists lately, and unfortunately too many of their sophomore efforts have been over-produced, unoriginal radio-pop crap.
Naess is anything but! What's so wonderful about her is (at least) threefold: 1. her variety; 2. her voice; and 3. her songwriting. Now, I should say that this is the only album of her four that I've heard yet; I do intend on getting the rest but I can't compare to her earlier releases--maybe that's a good thing? So. On this album, the variety is superb! The first track starts softly then moves gently, the second ends in a chorus of her screaming friends (a unique inclusion that turns off some, but lighten up people--it's fun, and that's the point), and the rest of the album is fairly chill, laid-back folk/pop--varying from fun and upbeat to soft and slow.
Acoustic guitar and/or piano provides a backing throughout, with bits of light percussion, mandolin, and strings. Fairly stripped-down, nothing is over-done. And that's for the best: at the end of "Learning As We Go" somewhat of a cacophany (for her) seems like just a bit too much going on. She and her beautiful voice (reminded me of early Feist only a little lower), which she manipulates ever so subtly to sound slightly different in each song, sounds purest with less going on. With the exception, perhaps, of the first track.
"Ghosts in the Attic," "Heavy Like Sunday," and "On My Mind" are absolutely my favorite tracks. Having these songs in my head all day for a week made me think about how well they're written, and how Leona Naess has brought back the lost art form of analogy and metaphor. Seriously, I've had enough of the same old "ooh, I want you," "oh no, I lost you," and "I need you but am too proud to admit it," etc. etc. "singer-songwriter" repetitive blather. Naess (with the help of her bandmate/producer Sam Dixon on most) writes real, poetic songs, that, if you listen closely enough, might make you think. Being open to interpretation might make you enjoy it that much more if you're into that kind of thing ;-)
She is touring this fall with Ray Lamontagne!
Ghosts in the Attic
On My Mind
I love this video. So unassuming, so pure, so perfectly about the music and the story.