Lou Doillon

Lay Low

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The critical and commercial success of Lou Doillon's haunting debut Places -- which included the album's double platinum status in France and Doillon winning the French Grammy for Best Female Artist -- may have taken some by surprise. Lay Low proves that the acclaim for Doillon is no fluke, although her approach to her second album may also come as a surprise. Instead of making a bigger-sounding album, she pares back: a svelte 35 minutes, Lay Low's artfully spare songs let Doillon's voice dominate these songs even more than it did on Places. There's an ageless, almost androgynous depth and richness to her singing that evokes legends such as Odetta and Leonard Cohen, as well as more recent artists like Tindersticks' Stuart Staples and Timber Timbre's Taylor Kirk, who just happens to be Lay Low's co-producer. Together, they take Doillon's music in eclectic yet organic directions, whether it's the dusky, jazzy "Robin Miller," the sultry swagger of the title track, or the ever-so-slightly eerie warmth of "Above My Head," one of the tracks that bears a close kinship with Kirk's Timber Timbre work. Like Kirk, Doillon loves the classics but not too faithfully, and she puts her own stamp on "Let Me Go," a slow-building yet insistent ballad that would do Roy Orbison proud, and "Where to Start," a bit of Patsy Cline-esque heartache that peaks with Doillon crooning "I've got to stop this obsession." More often, though, Lay Low finds her with plenty of distance between her and the objects of her affection. On "Weekender Baby," she measures the time apart from her lover in cups of coffee, shots of whiskey, and telephone rings; on "Worth Saying," she muses, "Should I speak my truth and get you running?" As she explores the difference between being alone and being lonely on Lay Low, she sounds more confident and alluring than ever.

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