Leona Naess: Thirteens
Leona Naess: Thirteens
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Monday, 11, May 2009 10:05
Polydor, out now.
In a nutshell...
More top-class Naess fayre.
What's it all about?
Thirteens, the story goes, comprises 13 tracks recorded at home by Leona Naess, which have subsequently been overdubbed to bring them up to full production quality. Further details are sketchy, but it's likely this means that the time span involved in the creation of this album is greater than would be the case for many. Naess' personal life led to a five-year gap between this effort and her previous, self-titled album, which may have helped to allow a wealth of tracks to be produced from which these 13 gems were selected.
Many reviews suggest that the turbulence and tragedy Naess suffered in her private life during those five years are reflected in the lyrics. Indeed, there are a few downbeat moments in some of the songs, but I'm always reluctant to link artists' work too closely with their home lives. Many of the themes were already apparent in Comatised, her 2000 first release. However, the events Naess has witnessed may well have given her newer work more of an edge - there is a distinct feeling that Thirteens is less 'safe' than her previous efforts.
Who's it by?
Leona Naess was born in New York but raised in London. Her first album, Comatised, was released in 2000 after some delays - mergers within the recording industry ultimately saw it released on MCA, the same label that put out her sophomore effort, I Tried To Rock You But You Only Roll, a year later. In 2003 her third effort, the self-titled Leona Naess, appeared on Geffen, while Thirteens was released in the US last year.
The five-year gap between albums three and four has seen Naess' personal life take a couple of hits - her engagement to singer Ryan Adams came to an end in 2003, while her father was killed in a climbing accident in early 2004, leading Naess to take a sabbatical from recording. Ultimately she returned to the studio, but it could go some way to explaining the peculiar production process behind Thirteens.
As an example...
"So let's go out late/Drink a lot/Stay up past 8 and then dance/Dance all night/And leave our boyfriends behind." - Leave Your Boyfriends Behind
Likelihood of a trip to the Grammys
I've been a long-time fan of Naess' work and would love to see her get the recognition she deserves - so I'll pin my hopes on a yes!
What the others say
"While she might not have her own 1-2-3-4, there's more than enough quality with the likes of Leave Your Boyfriends Behind and Heavy Like Sunday to keep listeners coming back." - Sunday Mercury
"When Naess plays with her past, instead of bowing before it, loss rather becomes her." - Guardian
So is it any good?
I've already admitted to being a bit of a Leona Naess fan so it may come as no surprise that I enjoyed this album. But whether it's the fact that Naess is a few albums into her recording career, or the fact that this album is made of 13 separate tracks drawn from previous "homemade" collections, there's a sense of greater artistic freedom than was the case with earlier work such as Comatised.
This freedom helps to make things more interesting - I'll freely admit that some people could find Comatised a little insipid. But with Thirteens, there's no sense of things having been tamed down. Instead, Naess's creativity is allowed to show through, both in terms of songwriting and of performance.
Whether Naess's five-year break between her third and fourth albums has had any bearing on her music, I'll leave for the listener to decide - what I will say, however, is that this latest instalment in her portfolio definitely does not disappoint.