Laura Jansen

Bells

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Dutch-American singer/songwriter Laura Jansen's debut full-length CD, Bells, combines her two previously released (in Holland) EPs, Trauma (2007) and Single Girls (2009), adding a newly recorded cover of Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody." The Los Angeles-based graduate of the Berklee School of Music seems to be fascinated with certain sorts of repetitive sounds, basing the music for the title song on church bells and drawing inspiration from radio emissions for the closer, "Signal." These form the basis for her keyboard patterns, which are expanded into pop/rock arrangements on the album. Over them, Jansen sings in a breathy soprano, taking octave leaps to emphasize emotional moments or just for variety. Her lyrics have an ingenuous charm, as she explores the romantic challenges of being a young woman. The words can be allusive and poetic, but on the most plainspoken track, "Single Girls," she gets specific about making the transition out of a relationship that has gone wrong, addressing the absent ex-lover to explain how she's cut her hair, gone out for a drink with the guy down the hall, and dumped a bunch of pillows on the newly unused side of the bed, "‘cause that's what single girls do." Of course, the details make the song all the more universal, and they help make it the best composition on a good first album.

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