Friday, June 15, 2007

So not a cheap pen

Who doesn't like an unexpected discovery? All right, so discoveries usually are unexpected, but there's something particularly satisfying to suddenly becoming infatuated with someone you had previously dismissed. New Zealander Bic Runga has been around for over ten years now, and never had I paid her any attention, summarily dumping her in the Lilith Fair bag (yes, she appeared at that time, which now seems impossibly remote in our era of precocious celebutantes famous at 18 and in rehab at 20). Or maybe it was her first name, which just made me think of the cheap pens and lighters to common in France when I was growing up.

In an attempt to clean up the mess on my desk, I was listening to CDs I'd never gotten around to playing. And there it was: Bic Runga's third and latest album, Birds. Barely a minute in and I was hooked. Quick look at the credits: Neil Finn plays the piano but it's Runga's show—she wrote the songs and handled the production. What I like best is that she is sligthly aloof, unwilling to resort to cheap cooing and trilling to seduce to the listener. That approach won't help her win American Idol but that's just fine. The second track, "Say After Me," is a perfect illustration of the contrast between the plain, conversational vocals and the gorgeous arrangements (which sound lifted from a Dusty Springfield album).

For some reason the atmosphere on "Winning Arrow" reminds me of Suzanne Vega (for the reserved attitude) and the Carpenters, which I've been listening to a bit recently, inspired by Justin Bond's interpretation of their entire second album at the Zipper a few weeks ago. (Note to prospective Carpenters interpreters: Many of these songs are hard to sing!).

So is Bic Richard and Karen rolled into one? Judge for yourself:
MP3 Bic Runga "Say After Me" from Birds, 2005
MP3 Bic Runga "Winning Arrow" from Birds, 2005


Anonymous said...

Je suis amoureux d'elle depuis 4/5 ans. Son second album est excellent aussi, peut-être un peu trop cucul la praline sur certains morceaux, mais il y a quelques merveilles pop au milieu.

Elisabeth Vincentelli said...

Je pense que c'est une des "songwriters" les plus sous-estimées du moment--et je suis coupable aussi puisque je ne l'ai découverte que cette semaine!

(I think she's one of the most underestimated songwriters of these past few years—and I'm guilty too since I only discovered her last week!)