Jessica Folcker

Skin Close

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The 21st century hasn't been particularly kind to Jessica Folcker. After a string of big international hits in the late '90s, the failure of her second album found her without an international record deal, and unlike countrymate and fellow Cheiron alumni Robyn, she failed to even maintain much of a fan base in Sweden. Her third album, the Swedish-language På Svenska, was a dull disappointment that failed to reverse her fortunes. Skin Close sees her teaming up with dance producer Andreas Kleerup. His electro-pop sound suits her distinctive voice and pop sensibilities well. Much as her debut hits were very much the sound of 1998 -- bouncy, cleanly produced pop -- the more minimal, '80s-inspired feel of this album is in line with where pop music is in 2007. Which is not to say Folcker is desperately grabbing at current trends. "Snowflakes" is one of the most distinctive records of the year, starting with a sparse instrumental that builds and builds as the chorus works its way under your skin. It's a more mature sound for Folcker, and deserves to be a big hit. The '80s sound can also be heard on the rocking "Hot Night" and the bouncy "Me Against the World." Youssou N'Dour appears on the reflective "Voices of Today," which could almost be described as electronic world music. Other reflective moments such as "Lost in Your Eyes" and "Desperately" are much more mature than the sugary ballads that peppered her earlier albums, and Folcker's committed vocals reflect this. The uniformity of the sound can make this album sound a little samey at first, but further listens reveal the strong hooks present in every song. All in all, this is a welcome return to form for one of the most interesting and perennially underrated pop vocalists of the last decade.

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