Lauren Gifford

This six-song debut EP is a surprisingly strong collection of smooth pop-jazz, showcasing Lauren Gifford's sly vocals along with her sure-handed piano playing. Like Norah Jones, Gifford is a lovely young thang with a voice that hearkens back to another era, although Gifford lacks the songwriting sophistication to pull off such a crossover coup. Her lyrics don't match the maturity of her smoky voice, and efforts to tart up her wholesome image come off badly, like when she sings on the album's title song, "Smothered in sex like a Kubrick film/I've got a solitary love/Burnin' deep in my kiln." Still, there's plenty to applaud in this album, from the solid production of Oliver Letz, coaxing full arrangements out of each tune, to the plain-prettiness of it all: the cool bass of John Adams, the stirring harmonies in each song, not to mention the talent herself. "Life's too long to be blue," Gifford sings. And with her kind of talent, she may be right.
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Sarah Hepola