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Me and Simon

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Album Review

Me and Simon is as clever a piece of pop as could be asked for, meaning that it camouflages itself as not pop at all. Laleh does a convincing impression of a singer/songwriter girl — acoustic guitar, a voice dripping with sincerity (smartly pushed to the forefront in the mix), and well-thought-out lyrics. She likes to play a naïve and slightly sad outsider with immigrant roots, exaggerating this persona on the opening track where she wonders, "is this what they call big city love?" singing in a cute accent (absent from other songs) over Middle Eastern strings. As a real immigrant, Laleh is certainly entitled to a bit of ethnic soul searching, but her simplicity looks like a postmodern ruse: she is no folk singer; she is a professional pop musician with a keen sense of melody. You don't need to hear "Big City Love" twice to hum the chorus, and the next several tracks are on par with it, but the music balances irresistibly adorable vocal hooks with elaborate guitar textures — no three-chord strumming here — and neat arrangements like quasi-harpsichord runs betraying a Jethro Tull influence in "Go Go." Moreover, as Laleh gradually grows bored of playing a country girl, she starts to display an impressive array of tricks, from new wave throwbacks to string-heavy soundtrack pieces. Sometimes she follows her influences a little too literally — "Nation" is too close to the Police's "Message in a Bottle," and "Bjuro Klubb" is a dead ringer for the old Euro-pop hit "99 Luftballons," but still, her songwriting range is impressive. The album's combo of folk sincerity and professional arrangements is awkward, but singer/songwriters are supposed to be awkward anyway, and with music this fine, there's little reason to complain.

Biography

Born: 10 June 1982 in Iran

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s

Laleh Pourkarim, better known as Laleh, burst onto the Swedish pop charts in 2005 with a sophisticated set of songs that nodded to smooth adult contemporary artists like Sting and Seal. The daughter of a well-regarded Iranian sociologist, Laleh spent the majority of her childhood in Iran and moved to Sweden when she was 12, where she learned to play the guitar. She formed a jazz ensemble, Bejola, with her music teacher when she was a teenager, and went on to teach herself to play percussion and saxophone....
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Me and Simon, Laleh
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