Alessi's Ark

The Still Life

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At the tender age of 22, Alessi Laurent-Marke could be forgiven for feeling jaded with the tumultuous life of a musician, with this being her third full-length -- not to mention the clutch of EPs that have appeared since 2008's The Horse EP -- on two very different labels. Pegged in the same hole as Virgin's other indie folk songstress, Laura Marling, for her debut, Alessi's Ark made the change to the independent talent pool of Bella Union. Her sophomore effort, Time Travel, was released on the indie label and saw her expand her storytelling folk style, yet here on The Still Life she has begun to solidify and challenge her undoubted songwriting ability. A huge fan of Conor Oberst and his band Bright Eyes -- her debut was produced by guitarist Mike Mogis -- Laurent-Marke worked with Oberst and Azure Ray producer Andy LeMaster in his Atlanta, Georgia studio. Throughout the record's lyrical themes there are traits of Laurent-Marke's colorful personality, with a serene feeling of travel and self-discovery that infects songs "Those Waves," "Mountain," and the French/English-sung "Sans Balance." Like much of her work, there are songs that clock in under two minutes, and the brief tunes such as "The Good Song" still manage to leave lasting impressions, as when Laurent-Marke's vocals are awkwardly yet sweetly delivered on a simple chorus of "You're good" -- a message that is all too often undervalued but is sung earnestly here. Unlike her second record, Laurent-Marke goes on to develop many of the songs into fuller-sounding compositions: the lead single "The Rain" journeys beautifully through the changing seasons and benefits from the wonderfully expansive production that surrounds her distinct vocals, while the strings and piano in "Big Dipper" provide an eerie refrain to an otherwise charming song. The cover of the National's track "Afraid of Everyone" is certainly the most dramatic song on the record and her own version still sounds distinctly hers, although the introduction of the electric guitar is somewhat out of keeping with the rest of the album. While not the finished product yet, Alessi Laurent-Marke shows here that her songwriting talents and storytelling are wise beyond her years.

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