Without a Bell or Whistle, Lou’s Just a Pretty Voice

    After gathering a small following with emotionally charged ’90s hit “The Rain” — not to mention a spot on the hit “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack — her third album falls flat, starved of Lamb’s lush sonic textures and blasting further into blandville with every (slightly tweaked) take on moody acoustics.

    Rhodes’ whisper does burst with sincerity on the titular track, but her emotion is unrealistically directed at a vague end-of-the-world scenario, rendered even more underwhelming by a stock-chord backdrop.

    Rhodes bleeds emo tree-sap tears on album highlight “Bloom,” relaying her desire to bloom with flowers that lift their heads toward the sun. It begins as the most understated stuff on the album — five strings are plucked on loop — but a more intriguing parade of players slowly enters the room: A tinkling arpeggio drops at random intervals while swelling strings and singers combine for dramatic crescendo. All the while, Rhodes remains plain and sweet, refusing to either drown out or fall in line with her under-layers. The complex harmony showcases her goods more than any sparse acoustic tune: Rhodes’ voice may be forgettable on its own, but give it a busy enough backdrop and its pure simplicity begins to shine through.

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