Lonely Drifter Karen

Fall of Spring

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The problem with stellar, ultra-promising debut albums is that they can raise expectations so high that second albums -- even if they're solid -- may feel slightly disappointing. Lonely Drifter Karen's first album, Grass Is Singing, was an exceptional debut; it was a very tough act to follow, but thankfully, there are no signs of the dreaded sophomore slump on the European trio's second album, Fall of Spring. This 2010 release (which was recorded in Mallorca, Spain as well as Brussels, Belgium and different parts of France) is not a radical departure from Grass Is Singing, although it isn't an exact replica either. The main thing that is different is that Lonely Drifter Karen (Austrian lead singer Tanja Frinta, Spanish pianist/keyboardist Marc Melià Sobrevias, and Italian drummer Giorgio Fausto Menossi) have added a slight touch of Europop glossiness à la the Cardigans, but "slight" is the operative word because their alternative pop/rock and art rock excursions are still adventurous and slightly quirky -- and many of the influences that served them delightfully well on Grass Is Singing continue to serve them delightfully well on Fall of Spring, including Björk, Billie Holiday, German cabaret (especially Kurt Weill), and French chanson. So even if the Europop gloss that Lonely Drifter Karen have added gives this CD a bit more ear candy appeal and a bit more directness than its predecessor, they haven't lost their Euro-artsiness or forsaken the mild eccentricity that they displayed on Grass Is Singing. And any album that has been influenced by Björk and Lady Day and Kurt Weill can hardly be accused of being assembly-line Top 40 fare. In the United States, Fall of Spring might win over some college radio stations, but it's hard to envision any of this release's free-spirited gems being played on America's rigidly corporate Top 40 stations. Fall of Spring is an excellent sophomore outing from this Austrian/Spanish/Italian trio.

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