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Music Review

Lenka: 'Lenka'

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Lenka: 'Lenka'
Released on Monday, Jun 29 2009

We're being told time and time again that 2009 is the year where the skinny, guitar-wielding boys take a back seat to the hip, electropop-peddling ladies - especially if their name begins with an L. After Ladyhawke set the ball rolling in 2008, Little Boots, La Roux and Lady GaGa have all released albums that have attracted an enviable amount of commercial and critical success. Consequently, there's probably no better time for Lenka Kripac, formerly singer with Aussie electro-rock outfit Decoder Ring, to strike out with her debut solo album.

Bucking the trend somewhat, Lenka has distanced herself from her roots and taken a confident step into traditional singer-songwriter territory. Her solo songs tend to be piano-based, fleshed out by luscious arrangements featuring guitars, horns, strings and even the odd accordion or mellotron flourish. The result sounds assured, expensive and well put together. Unfortunately, where the album fails is in its most vital component: the songs. While these tracks have all the trappings of a more commercial Regina Spektor, they have none of the quirky charm or sparky originality that makes the Soviet-born star so appealing.

Lyrically, Lenka seems to strive for a simple universality, but winds up on the side of blandly trite far too often. This album is dominated by downbeat observations on the nature of love and life, from the pondering of 'The Show' ("It's a joke, nobody knows / They've got a ticket to the show") to the self-doubt of 'Everything I'm Not' ("Gimme a break / A little escape/ I'm so tired of being me"), but you seldom feel an emotional connection with what's being sung.

Only in flashes does the album pull itself up from the anodyne. 'Skipalong' has a nursery rhyme appeal and an almost Britpoppy melody that suits its refreshingly carefree lyrics. Meanwhile, the verses of 'Trouble Is A Friend' are brooding enough to engage you fully with the music, but the moment is only fleeting and by the chorus your interest begins to dissipate again. Lenka is blessed with a lilting and lovely voice, and the production here is sleek, smooth and often beautifully understated, but most of these songs simply aren't worthy of either. Every melody seems so middle of the road and pedestrian that the album ends up as the embodiment of musical jaywalking.

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