Review Summary: Apple unveils a deserving winner.
The album artwork for Yael Naim’s self titled album is a perfect depiction of the music. Behind Yael Naim’s transparent profile is a barge on water with a piano, a man reading on the couch, and Yael Naim again sitting down, her arms spread out before the light breeze. The barge has a frame, like a house, with lights dangling for when it turns night.
There’s a good chance you have heard Yael Naim’s track “New Soul” on recent Macbook commercials. On her last.fm page, there were the inevitable cries of “sell out,” but Yael Naim has been around for some time before this album, it is good for her to finally get some recognition (she is the first Israeli solo artist to make the Billboard top 10).
The album is a tranquil affair. At times the songs have little movement, the breeze is too soft and everything stands still. This is the case for “Too Long” and “Shelcha.” But some songs are structured so beautifully it is spine chilling, most notably “Far Far.” The mixture of a powerful chorus (“Far, far is this little girl/she was waiting for something/to happen to her”) and an ethereal lead up (“How can you stay outside"/There’s a beautiful mess inside”) is sublime.
Naim alternates between singing in English, French, and Hebrew. Her voice possesses a quality of sweetness, mixed with melancholy, and a level of playfulness, as in “New Soul.” She interacts well with the ever present acoustic guitar. The brass, horn, and keyboard instrumentation is simple, mostly used to create a mood, all the movement in the song is led by Naim’s voice. A minimalist approach to the drums-often they are not in the song at all-adds to the music’s calm.
Sometimes peace doesn’t work, and a beat might have been nice. A good example of this is her cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Her attempt is admirable, but in execution it falls flat-the cover sounds like the original on some powerful tranquilizers, lacking energy. Overall, the album lacks any change of pace, leaving us with a consistent, at times repetitive CD.
But if Yael Naim had to stick with a certain sound throughout an album, this would be the sound to stick with, it is beautiful. Even when it’s static or boring, it’s still beautiful thanks to her voice and the minimalistic approach to the instruments. Yael Naim could become a force in today’s music scene.