May 01, 2009 Web Exclusive
Big money says Zee Avi's new self-titled CD will be available in Starbucks before you can say Accessibility Meets Post-Colonial Hip. Lucky for us, this won't be one of those Putumayo 'It sounded good in the store' purchases.
For my narrow American mindset you couldn't construct a more exotic background-Avi grew up in Borneo and Kuala Lumpur-but her sound is significantly less foreign than you might expect. She sounds like an excellent, once in a long while coffeehouse troubadour-she could be from Kinshasa or Hoboken, it really doesn't matter.
In fact, part of what Zee Avi accomplishes here to is to reset antiquated notions of the gap between cultures, at least in her generation: especially on her song "Kantoi," where she mixes her native tongue in with flat, unromantic American English lines like "My phone was on silent/I was at the gym." What had seemed exotic or idyllic is revealed as genuine.
Producers/promoters will inevitably start selling her as either the 'acoustic M.I.A.' or 'the Malaysian Norah Jones,' because Zee Avi is a gentle record, a good morning record, a future staple for the hungover or stressed out. Avi uses a familiar drifting, sultry vocal that lands somewhere in the land of Zooey Deschanel, Cat Power, White Hinterland (this is uncanny), even Cocorosie, occasionally veering in the Norah Jones-jazzy direction, usually backed by the sleepy acoustic guitar we should all expect out of Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records. Zee Avi and Jack Johnson can soon sing each other to sleep, resting their adorable, brave new world heads on the piles of cash they're sure to gather after this release. (www.zeeavi.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10