The title track of Ane Brun's fourth studio album (only her second U.S. release), "Changing of the Seasons" makes reference to all four -- "the relief of spring, the intoxication of summer rain, the clearness of fall, how winter makes me reconsider it all" -- but there's no question that this is music for the more pensive and bittersweet of seasonal shifts: the onset of autumn, the drift into winter. As we often do when the weather draws us inward, these poetically tender songs contemplate the comforts and challenges of togetherness and solitude, reflecting on relationships with a mix of resignation and sweetness, a mature emotionalism that is no less poignant for its reassurance and composure. Brun's keenly observed relationship songs turn on touchingly deployed metaphors (love as a jigsaw puzzle; a faded daydream of tree house domesticity; the emotional armor of a reticent lover turned tangible and rusty) and moments of subtle emotional shifts: restless disenchantment dispelled by a waking lover's instinctive embrace; the difference between asking someone never to leave and realizing that the asking is irrelevant. She invests isolation with a comparable complexity, variously plucking up her bruised confidence ("Raise My Head"), honing in on the fleeting seconds of unexpected calm amid bouts of anxiety ("Ten Seconds"), surrendering to find solace in the recordings of Gillian Welch (and Norwegian ambient producer Biosphere), and offering a curiously soothing fatalism in the lovely "Lullaby for Grownups." Befitting the ruminative tone of the words, the music strikes a balance between sparsity and lushness, augmenting Brun's acoustic guitar with touches of marimba, bouzouki, and piano as well as elegant, enveloping string arrangements, many of them by rising star Nico Muhly. At the center of it all is Brun's curious and affecting voice, conveying the blend of expressiveness and restraint that these songs seem to invite, and recalling vocalists as disparate as Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell, and Tori Amos, sometimes all at once. A thoroughly captivating work from an undeniable talent. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

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