A few tracks off La Biographie De Luka Philipsen and its follow-up La Disparition favor the electronic, trip-hop sound made popular by '90s acts like Massive Attack and Portishead. The sonic "La Corde Et Les Chaussons" is a beauty worth mentioning despite the ubiquitous Cher vocoder effect on her vocals. But after tiring of too many extraneous, inorganic sounds, Keren Ann needed a change, hence the more acoustic direction of Not Going Anywhere and Nolita. "An album is really what you want to hear at the time you record it. When I was recording Not Going Anywhere, I needed to hear something very pure- soft, folkish, nude."
The soft folk sound she describes translates into a strangely unsettling live atmosphere. Her songs are too quiet for clubs, too mellow for New York crowds. When she commands silence I am reminded of a scene in Woody Allen's Annie Hall where Diane Keaton sings a mellow jazz song to a restless and distracted Manhattan audience. With such a soft sound you should be able to hear a pin drop, but instead wine glasses clink, couples argue, and moving chairs squeak loudly. After all, it is New York, and here the noise never stops. But learn to drown out the sound and Keren Ann's performances become a sort of meditative experience. You concentrate on Avishai Cohen's muted trumpet, Jack Petruzzelli's slide guitar, and Keren Ann's angelic voice- a voice she admits to having once hated. Linda Ronstadt hated her own voice. So did Glen Campbell.
Although Paris remains the dominant geographical influence on her music, hints of Manhattan have crept in. Nolita's "Chelsea Burns" and "Roses and Hips" could've only been inspired by the gritty, dark city that has also inspired groups like the Velvet Underground. Set alongside the very French "La Forme Et Le Fond" and "Que N'ai-Je," Nolita plays like a subtle tribute to her two favorite frequent flyer destinations. After traveling around the world in a one-hour conversation, I end with one last question. A total digression. What is your guilty pleasure? Her eyes light up. "Oohhh... chocolate."
"No, wait... not chocolate. I would like to open three different bottles of very good wine and savor the taste of each one of them."