“You said I play my guitar as if it had cotton strings,” Noa Babayof sings on “Cotton Strings”, a track from the Israeli singer’s new album, From a Window to a Wall. And whoever it was that said that is exactly right. These songs, from vocals to guitar to the swelling of strings surrounding both, is played softly and with care. Babayof’s voice is always faint, near breaking she’s so quiet, but beautiful despite its limited range. On some tracks, like the breezy shuffle of “A Song for Me”, and the more threadbare “This Year’s Parade”, Babayof’s light touch is affecting and brilliant in its gentility. She sounds genuinely hurt, genuinely searching. In those moment, she sounds like a fresh female voice, one that can rise above the pseudo-folk you’re likely to hear pumping through the overhead speakers at your local Borders.
But those moments on From a Window to a Wall are few and far between. Too often the deliberate nature of her delivery, and the meticulous instrumentation, come off as overly careful. The album’s gentle nature slips into something a little more safe and sleepy, as Babayof’s tone rarely changes and, from song to song, the strings that start the album so well begin to repeat themselves, wailing the same way over each track. It is certainly an album by an artist with promise, but Babayof seems too concerned with using what she assumes will work, instead of exploring riskier elements that might pay better dividends.
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