Keren Ann’s international pedigree lends itself to the cover of 101, where she holds a gun and dons a dark coat. It’s as if she’s the femme fatale in a Bond movie, but what 101 presents is much less intriguing than spy life. At best, the heart found in earlier recordings is missing from Ann’s soft voice here. At worst—as in the album closer where she counts down from 101 to 1 in a flat tone—things get downright tedious.
Keren Ann is working with a beguiling instrument: a flat and airy voice that wafts through her songs. It’s a limitation but also a signature, and Keren Ann threads her dreamy sound across the ten songs of 101 with confidence and cunning. Keren Ann Zeidel grew up in Israel, Holland, and Paris, and her music contains traces of European dance pop, Serge Gainesbourg, Jewish folk melodies, Suzanne Vega, and floating psychedelia.
Keren Ann followed her breakout success of 2007 with a long hiatus from her recording contract, although she remained busy with a host of varying projects. On the surface, her return, 101, has an odd dichotomy. The lyrics and songs (“My Name Is Trouble,” “Blood on My Hands”) speak of violence, as does the cover shot of Keren holding a pistol, but her production and arrangements are just as light and subtle as 2007's Keren Ann (except for a pair of productions that, Feist-like, could earn chart placings).
Violence is a hook on 101, Keren Ann’s first new album in four years, which attempts to recast the singer as a fiercer, more forceful presence. This works well on opener “My Name Is Trouble,” which is teasingly assertive while still hewing to her usual subtlety, but rings false elsewhere, namely on cabaret-style tracks like “Blood on my Hands,” which clumsily details the usually sweet singer murdering her audience. This swerve into gangster imagery is jarring, mainly because it’s so inexplicably strained.
Blends the quirky, the audacious and the touching to confident effect. Matthew Horton 2011 Not exactly nose to the grindstone, Dutch/Israeli (and wholly Parisian) chanteuse Keren Ann Zeidel returns with her first solo album in four years. It’s her sixth in all, and fourth in English, and suggests the years haven’t been idled away. 101 marks a shift from the stark balladry of 2007’s eponymous collection, plumping up the sonic cushions and finding a wry lyrical touch – she sounds relaxed, witty and assured, and ready to deliver a great record.Last time around, Zeidel risked fading into the ranks of female singer-songwriters; the album was strong but preferred to beguile with delicate arrangements and her tremulous voice.