Mixing the low-key folk-rock of Gravenhurst and PJ Harvey at her least hysterical, Sophie Hunger produced one of the better singer/songwriter albums to grace the European charts -- in this case, Swiss ones -- with 1983. The focus is firmly on the vocals, placed firmly in the forefront of the mix -- they are simply louder than the rest of the music -- but this is a clever producing decision, not the vanity of someone in love with her voice, as it could have been with a lesser performer: Hunger never forgets that she is there to write songs, not preach or show off her vocal cords. And write songs she does -- an impressive variety of them, in fact, from the rocking "Your Personal Religion" with its bluesy guitar in the middle to the quiet acoustics of "Travelogue" and the almost a cappella opener, and with the rest padded out by a quiet but involved mix of electronica beats suggesting a relaxed Massive Attack, guitar picking, sparse piano lines that clean the much-stained name of "cabaret music," and even dashes of brass and plastic synths where appropriate. The best thing about it, though, is that the music is amazingly cohesive but never dull -- Hunger goes for an introspective nighttime mood, sometimes elegiac, sometimes gloomy, and uses whatever tools she can think of to create it, all without wallowing in unnecessary melodrama. Not every cut stands up to the general standard -- the opening song is too quirky, for example, and some of the latter songs struggle for the same emotional impact that earlier tunes produce effortlessly -- but still, 1983 is as fine a brooding session as can be wished for. ~ Alexey Eremenko, Rovi

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