French-Israeli songbird Yael Naim returns after four years with a dazzling collection of otherworldly ballads.
Yael Naim, the Israeli-French singer-songwriter who reached fame somewhere around the release of the first Macbook Air in 2007, has released her fourth full-length LP, Nightsongs, today. Hers is a somewhat unique position, accompanied only by a handful of once-obscure twee indie artists made famous by one song; Feist, Group Love, Jet. Think of an actor on a long running sitcom and their near inability to separate themself from the role, forever confined to the parameters of a fictional character. It is presumably the prospect these Apple artists faced, and granted, some continue to enjoy the success that brought them fame all those years ago. Feist, most notably, is now a mainstay of the Canadian indie scene, and likely enjoys that momentum afforded to her. But ask most casual listeners, and see their eyes light up at the hint, “remember the Ipod Nano ad? 1234?”
Naim’s own ‘1234,’ the adorably minimalist piano chant-along ‘New Soul,’ has overshadowed, and perhaps thwarted, her two subsequent albums – 2011’s She Was a Boy and Older in 2016. Both were commendable projects, as jaunty and spirited as Naim’s debut and no less ready for a more widespread audience. Regardless of those albums’ more covert releases, Naim continues to release beautifully crafted indie pop in a style entirely her own: warm acoustic guitars, minimal percussion, the occasional baroque instrument for texture. Naim’s most notable weapon, however, is the rich, feather-light but self-assured voice, adorned by an accent completely balanced between her two nationalities.
With Nightsongs, Yael Naim now sounds more at ease with a less playful and more introspective pace; more intricate, almost angelic arrangements showcase that ever-endearing voice and its multilingualism. ‘She’ is a mesmerizing ballad adorned with arpeggiated piano and spinet. Naim’s voice rises and floats above haunting background vocals, so gently and so perfectly in a promising start to the album. ‘Miette’ is a fragile lullaby showcasing the infectious charm of her French singing, and a fitting showcase of her modern-day Brigitte Bardot appeal. The album unfolds in a similar vein – slow, lilting ballads set minimally to Spanish guitar and an array of languid synths, violins, and harps.
At 42, Nightsongs presents a version of Yael Naim completely at ease with her own artistry. Gone is the jaunty pop sensibility, and in its place is a mature, melancholic set of tracks that manage to avoid the cliché of torch singing. Like only a handful of her Apple contemporaries of the aughts, Naim continues to progress and evolve past the world’s singular entry to her music. In fact, it seems well past time to even utter the name of that first 2007 single, a disservice to the self-assured and established artist that Yael Naim now is. With Nightsongs, she embraces texture and grace over twee whimsy, her long-building potential realized to simultaneously ornate and intimate effect.