Album: Nelly Furtado

Folklore, Dreamworks
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The Independent Culture

Nelly Furtado's début album possessed an idiosyncratic zest that made it a refreshing addition to the millennial pop landscape. Two years on, this follow-up tries hard to regain that buoyancy, but lacks anything as immediately engaging as "I'm like a Bird" and "Turn Off the Light"; as a result, one becomes more aware of the irritating quality of her voice, which in places here rivals Cyndi Lauper's for cartoonish shrillness. A loosely thematic work about culture, tradition and ambition, Folklore opens with songs expressing her own annoyance at being stereotyped ("One Trick Pony", "Powerless"). It then broadens out into a reflection on the immigrant experience, celebrating the newcomer's gaucheness in "Fresh Off the Boat", contemplating the deceptive lure of a new life in a new country in "The Grass is Green", "Picture Perfect" and "Build You Up", and rhapsodising about her parents' former homeland, The Azores, on "Island of Wonders". But she doesn't really have the ability to animate her concerns beyond leaden clichés such as "nobody can control me" and "they build you up only to tear you down". So, despite intriguing blends of guitar, accordion, pipe organ, dulcimer, vibes, harp - and, on one track, a bizarre mix of breakbeat, banjo and Kronos Quartet strings - it's not a particularly elevating experience.

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