Five years after Leona Naess gave it one more shot at the big time with an Ethan Johns-produced eponymous album, she returns with Thirteens, a subdued album that feels a bit like a rebuke to the splashy, hyped records she made at the turn of the millennium. Naess' downshift into a quieter gear came from the combined blow of losing her major-label contract and then losing her father, two events that helped her re-evaluate life. It's an exhausted cliché that turmoil produces great art, but in Naess' case there may be some germ of a truth there because the prolonged woodshedding she spent in the middle of the decade, when she wrote and recorded at home never releasing the material, has given way to this delicate, subtle album for Verve Forecast. Thirteens has slight passing echoes of such similar singer/songwriters as Dido, but Naess has a deeper warmth to her music, giving this the feel of a warm, gentle bath. And for music largely born in the wake of pain, there's a lot of lightness here, and not just in the openly jaunty "Leave Your Boyfriend Behind." The entire album has a lithe feel, driven as much by melody and mood as it is lyrics, and that's a plus: the album gels as a sustained piece of music. The whole thing rolls easy, never feeling as labored or constructed as her worthy big-budget hyped records, which is ironic, as this is the one album she's done that perhaps justifies all that commotion.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine