Alina Simone calls her debut album (following an earlier EP) Placelessness as a reference to her background; the daughter of Ukrainian parents, she was born in the old Soviet Union before the family was forced for political reasons to flee to the West, and she grew up in Massachusetts. More recently, she has lived in Austin, TX, and New York City, and also spent an extended period visiting Siberia. In these travels, she took up singing, at first on street corners, and her music retains the minimalism and simplicity of street performance, which producer Steve Rivette, who recorded the album in his Brooklyn apartment, has carefully preserved. Simone's sometimes double-tracked voice is front and center, backed by her guitar in seemingly semi-improvised song structures somewhat reminiscent of the style of Billy Bragg, another artist who is no stranger to street corners. But unlike Bragg, Simone does not take an overt political stance, preferring poetic imagery and expressions that are more emotional than analytical. Rivette discreetly adds bass and drums to support her, along with the occasional supplementary instrument such as an organ, playing simple runs, or a cello. Other clear antecedents are Björk and PJ Harvey. Like them, Simone uses her voice to vary the mood of the music dramatically, lending meaning that is not always to be found in her lyrics, which often have an adolescent preciousness.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann