Oh, the miseries of being a woman who sings in French. Always, in every review and in all articles, to be called a "chanteuse." Even if you don't sing in French anymore! And you aren't even French, although you grew up in France. Such is the dilemma of Keren Ann. Of course, she doesn't help matters by singing in a purrr-fectly hushed tone and tending toward delicate jazz-folk acoustic backdrops and the occasional Velvet Underground cover. But, on her new, sixth solo disc (titled 101 and recently released by Blue Note), the Javanese-Dutch/Russian-Israeli singer-songwriter expands her palette to include several new hues. Yes, the disc is still noiry as hell, with her posing with a large gun on the cover and offering plenty of smoky ballads (see "All the Beautiful Girls" and "Song from a Tour Bus"). But there are also songs such as "Blood on My Hands," with its giddy recitation of a murderous crime spree, and "Sugar Mama," which is the closest to a happy, upbeat tune Ann has ever written. And then there's "My Name Is Trouble," which seems to have been conjured up by her 1980s Parisian childhood, with its cheesy synth hook and fat bassline (not to mention her goofy robot dance moves in a recent live video), and the title tune, an ominous-yet-comical countdown that may or may not end at the Rapture. Even if she never escapes the chanteuse tag, she still has plenty of other tricks up her sleeve.
Tue., June 21, 8 p.m., 2011