Keepsake is the fourth album and Compass Records debut of Elizabeth & the Catapult, the project of New York singer/songwriter Elizabeth Ziman. Following 2014's Like It Never Happened by three years, it was written and recorded at various stops in the interim, with six different producers not counting Ziman herself. In addition to touring and appearing on albums by bands like Kishi Bashi and Son Lux during that stretch, she also carved time to score a handful of documentary films with Paul Brill. A classically trained pianist who took up the guitar before her previous album and writes on both, she puts piano front and center on the Randy Newman-esque "Mea Culpa." A pair of character sketches about reaching personal crossroads, the song's buoyant, racing piano accompaniment and Ziman's playful delivery may seem to underplay serious subject matter, but, after all, any hardship stems from their own bad behavior. An album that embraces moving forward from hard-earned life lessons, the songwriter turns the lens on herself on "Underwater." Also upbeat in tone but with lusher, full-band production by former bandmate Dan Molad, it takes stock of personal growth with lyrics like "I'm not afraid of sleeping like I used to be/I can crash into the waves, let them roll over me." Elsewhere, the earworm "We Can Pretend" functions as a jaunty anthem for selective reminiscing with handclaps and Mellotron among its palette. The album's not all bright and bubbly, though. Keepsake holds its share of wistful reflection ("Magic Chaser," "Better Days") and sentiments somewhere in between, but it gets downright forlorn on the arresting "Land of Lost Things." A piano-and-strings lament with Sondheim-ian overtones, it features reverb-rich production by Mark Marshall and proves to be an album highlight. Having said that, Ziman presents a solid front here, and that includes the hidden 13th track, "New Beginnings," a dreamy surf tune with hot sand between its toes and production by Richard Swift. It's a fitting end to a thoughtful and ultimately hopeful album that doubles as a songwriting showcase.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson