Review

Fresh from her stint as backing vocalist on Peter Gabriel's New Blood tour, Swedish-based Norwegian singer/songwriter Ane Brun's fifth studio album, It All Starts with One, unequivocally adheres to the less-is-more approach to folk-pop music. Indeed, despite the presence of not one but two drummers, Per Eklund (Lykke Li) and Ola Hultgren (Loney Dear), Tobias Fröberg's spacious atmospheric production is so minimal that you could often hear a pin drop, particularly on the fragile acoustic ballads "Lifeline" and "Oh Love," which showcase Brun's trembling shimmering vocals at their most captivating, and the heart-wrenching finale, "Undertow." Even on the more expansive-sounding moments, Brun's distinctive vocals remain the focus, effortlessly flitting between Kate Bush-style banshee on the tribal-tinged lead single, "Do You Remember," to delicate torch singer accompanied by the faint pounding drums and hushed piano chords of "What's Happening with You and Him," to cabaret chanteuse on the dramatic cello strings and castanet rhythms of "One," a slightly theatrical number inspired by the recent revolutions in the Middle East. But it's when she combines her talents with the beautifully laid-back and understated tones of José González on "Worship," an eerie blend of cinematic sweeping strings, muted skittering percussion, and melancholic guitar strums, when the album produces something undeniably magical. The sheer sparseness of It All Starts with One would suggest that a mainstream audience might struggle to find something to latch onto, but having since become her first number one album in her adopted homeland, there's no reason why its quietly enchanting qualities can't go on to provide her with the breakthrough outside Scandinavia that she deserves. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

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