Israeli-born Mai Lev sings with a clipped childlike lisp that complements her subject matter. It ranges from love (“You’re hurting / All I can give you is my heart”) to guileless expression (“I like the beach! / I like your eyes! / I like everything that is alive! / I’m not myself today!”). She lingers on the brink of sappiness in some places and pulls back in others.“You’re a better person than me / Today,” she sings at one point. It’s the “today” that saves the line from self pity and gets set off by the weightier sounds of cello and tuba. The instruments stand by her like concerned adults, present to ensure that this happy child doesn’t give her heart to the wrong person or fall over on the beach. Piping, whimsical, Birthday is the polar opposite of rebellion.
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