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Zera Vaughan

Back to the Roots

(Self-Released; US: 9 May 2006; UK: Unavailable)

Is there anything in the world less inspiriting than New Age electro-pop smoothed over with backwash fuzz and lyrics about feelin’ how you wanna feel? I think not, and that’s why I’m the wrong person to be listening to Back to the Roots. This is a disc with some good intros, yet the songs don’t always measure up to their promises. “Sweet Home” comes in with a low drum erupting into a storm of bagpipery and it sounds as if we’re in for a brilliant bit of pop bombast, but then the song slides down into a mild pit, rescued only partially by the sweetness of the refrain. Vaughan, born and raised in Tunisia by parents of different backgrounds, one English, one French, puts an averagely pretty voice to better use than you might imagine. This self-released album looks and sounds as smart as any big-label unit, but big-label mainstream overproduction has been plastered on until the music stiffens. Sweet and smooth, it’s like trying to listen to optimistic marzipan.

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