Cover Story [Issue
No Lolita: A Whisper, Not A Scream
CD Blue Note )
to Keren Ann on the ONE WAY CD 14
The title of Keren Ann’s new album Nolita brings to mind the famous novel and film about an older man and a young girl. But that isn’t exactly the intent. “Lolita is a fiction character who had to do with innocence,” 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,
Keren Anns 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 couldnt 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 wasnt
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
Notes Metro Blue imprint picked it up for American release
in summer 2004. Encouraged by the critical praise, Keren began work
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. Theres a young woman who is
possibly being stalked in Que nai-je? (What
Havent 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 doesnt have a beginning, middle or end
- its just an atmosphere that you recreate for the recording.
to (Keren Ann) on the ONE WAY CD