Release Date: Aug 23, 2011
Record label: Brushfire
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
After a quick, albeit passive, introduction to the first few tracks of Ghostbird, it’s hard not to lump the record’s polished collection of purposefully laid-back observations into the worn-out “let’s throw a bonfire and forget about our troubles” class of summer-exploiting ditties. And while the comfortable and simplistic style of Zee Avi’s latest LP will likely be compared by some to Jack Johnson’s overly saccharine past releases, after a few listens, the Malaysian singer-songwriter’s sophomore effort reveals an experience that, besides its scattered moments of monotony, is far too pleasant to waste the effort necessary to point out its flaws. It’s been two years since Avi’s first self-titled effort, and the 25-year-old has obviously taken some time to tweak the boundaries of her comfort zone.
It’s no surprise Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records is home to Zee Avi’s latest effort, Ghostbird. Sporting an acoustic guitar, ukulele and delicate percussion, the album fits the bill in an instrumental and tonal sense. While the Malaysian songstress’ charming vocals are easily the main attraction, Avi’s unexpected stroll through different sonic territories—hopping from pop (“The Book of Morris Johnson”) to R&B (“Concrete Wall”) and reggae (“Roll Your Head In The Sun”)—is a close second.
Setting up her camp somewhere between the beach and the jazz club, Zee Avi croons her way through another batch of relaxed, tropical songs on her second album. Ghostbird picks up where her debut left off, highlighting Avi’s voice and globe-trotting influences with help from Mario Caldato, Jr., a Brazilian producer who adds some of the same bossa nova charm he brought to Bebel Gilberto’s catalog. Avi is more indebted to her international roots this time around, singing in her native dialect on “Siboh Kitak Nangis” and drawing a link between American folk music and Malaysian traditions on the other numbers.
This is music for shiny countertops and sparkling glass; for a world where everybody spends their free time making paper boats to set sail in thimbles. So, in other words: nice. It sounds nice. Zee Avi’s debut album, secured by the quality of her YouTube videos and by Jack Johnson (I know, I know—don’t stop reading just yet) kept the sunny porch acoustics of her videos and left most of the embellishing—if you want to call it that—to her half-skip of a voice.