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Album Review

Setting up her camp somewhere between the beach and the jazz club, Zee Avi croons her way through another batch of relaxed, tropical songs on her second album. Ghostbird picks up where her debut left off, highlighting Avi’s voice and globe-trotting influences with help from Mario Caldato, Jr., a Brazilian producer who adds some of the same bossa nova charm he brought to Bebel Gilberto’s catalog. Avi is more indebted to her international roots this time around, singing in her native dialect on “Siboh Kitak Nangis” and drawing a link between American folk music and Malaysian traditions on the other numbers. But for all its worldly context, Ghostbird still wears its heritage lightly, placing more focus on the breezy songs themselves than the singer’s dual citizenship. “Madness,” with its walking bass solo and muted horn riffs, gives Avi the chance to flex her jazz chops, and “Concrete Wall” finds her layering a cappella vocals into a cyclical R&B tune. Accompanying herself on ukulele, she sings with the plainspoken beauty of Priscilla Ahn and Inara George, never resorting to multi-note runs or other vocal theatrics. The arrangements follow suit; they’re detailed and gorgeous, but they rarely overwhelm the music they’re meant to support, even at their most ornate. Ghostbird is a summer album for adventurous folk fans, engaging on its first run-thru but packed with enough twists and turns to warrant repeated listens.


Born: 1986 in Miri, Sarawak, Borneo

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Whimsical, jazzy singer/songwriter Izyan Allrahman, better known as Zee Avi, landed her first record deal thanks to the buzz generated by her YouTube channel. Avi was born in Borneo in 1986. She moved to Kuala Lumpur when she was 12 years old, and started playing the guitar when she was 17. After completing her studies in fashion design at the American InterContinental University in London, England, at the age of 21 she returned to Kuala Lumpur and started playing live gigs around town. When one...
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Ghostbird, Zee Avi
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