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Cover Story [Issue # 14 ]
Keren Ann: No Lolita: A Whisper, Not A Scream

By Lynne Bronstein

Nolita ( CD Blue Note )
Listen to Keren Ann on the ONE WAY CD 14

The title of Keren Annís new album Nolita brings to mind the famous novel and film about an older man and a young girl. But that isnít exactly the intent. ďLolita is a fiction character who had to do with innocence,Ē Keren explains.

No Lolita’ is not necessarily the opposite. But if I take all my narrators [of my songs], all the mysteries of New York-if they have to have one name, I think [Nolita] would suit. I think it has a very feminine sound.”

“Nolita” is also the nickname for “North Of Little Italy,” the New York neighborhood where Keren Ann has a studio. She originally stayed there with friends until she found her own place. “It became a refuge. You need a place which is isolated when you need the silence, but you like to know life is still there, outside.”
Keren Ann’s other home is Paris. Although she grew up shuttling between her parents’ homelands of Israel and the Netherlands, she has lived in France for years, is fluent in French, writes many of her songs in French, and sings in a whispery style that recalls such French singing stars as Claudine Longet.

“I started singing like that because I just couldn’t stand my voice any other way!” says Keren. “I tried screaming and shouting, but it was just unbearable. The most natural thing was to use my voice as it is.”
Keren Ann acquired her first guitar at age nine. By age 18, she was singing in a French rock band and had started to compose music. “I started writing songs for other people. I guess I wasn’t comfortable with my voice to sing my songs. But at some point I just felt [singing] was the right thing to do.”

With two albums released in France, Keren Ann came to New York, played at clubs, and recorded her third CD (and her first in English), Not Going Anywhere. After EMI released the album in France, Blue Note’s Metro Blue imprint picked it up for American release in summer 2004. Encouraged by the critical praise, Keren began work on Nolita.

During the recording sessions, Keren had an accident that tore ligaments one hand. This caused her to change some of her plans for instrumentation on the album. “Most of the guitars were already recorded,” she says. “But I still learned certain things. [The accident] made me buy keyboards and programming equipment - new sounds that I would use.”

The sounds of Nolita - the quiet vocals and multiple textures of strings and horns - frame songs about local characters mixed with autobiographical details. There’s a young woman who is possibly being stalked in “Que n’ai-je?” (“What Haven’t I?”) and lonely aging women such as Alice in “Song For Alice” and “Midi Dans Le Salon De La Duchesse.”

“When I make a record,” says Keren, “I have a virtual film in my mind. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle or end - it’s just an atmosphere that you recreate for the recording.”

Blue Note

Listen to (Keren Ann) on the ONE WAY CD

No Lolita: A Whisper, Not A Scream Keren Ann Nolita

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