Nicolette

Life Loves Us

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After any number of inspired collaborations and solo efforts in the 1990s, Nicolette seemed to disappear for a while, thus making her third solo album, Life Loves Us, a bit more of an event as a result. Right from the start it's clear her lovely voice hasn't lost anything in the time away, beginning with the trippy, quirkily manic cover of Paul Simon's "Feelin' Groovy" (here simply called "Groovy") with the same high, sweet purr familiar from the past. With that as an inspired start, Life Loves Us traces a path that not only reconfirms Nicolette's wide-ranging tastes but also her abilities to make sounds and styles her own, much like other such polymaths as Natacha Atlas, Björk, and Billy Mackenzie. Many songs show her readily singing in a strong, effortless flow like prime Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald, even while the manic, restless brew of everything from ambient tones to frenetic glitch bass places her firmly in the 21st century. Songs like "Wholesome" and the hyperenergetic "I Am Where the Party's At" sound like they could never have been recorded any earlier than now, alive and immediate rather than simply retracing the past. Sometimes placing her voice deeper in the mix like a distant broadcast ("Jenny" is a striking example), other times letting it burst forth like a fountain of joy, she shows her skill as a producer as much as a singer, while moments like a sudden burst of gentle laughter add to the bubbling happiness throughout. The participation of a variety of guests on spoken word interludes (in languages from Welsh and Icelandic to Tamil) might seem forced, but are handled so deftly as brief transitional breaks that it really does make Life Loves Us a world music album in truth. Furthermore, can one beat an album that references everything from "Happy Birthday to You" to the Gap Band to a song from a Mel Brooks movie?

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