No singer has come along this year with a voice as instantly captivating as Rumer's. Her rich, soulful sound has been frequently compared with that of Karen Carpenter, but its touches of sadness also recall Dusty Springfield (a la "The Look of Love") and k.d. lang.
Although she's hitched herself onto the late '60s new soul bandwagon, she's far less brassy than someone like Duffy and certainly less brash than Amy Winehouse. "Am I Forgiven" is a bright introduction, seemingly effortless effervescent old school pop. "Saving Grace" trots out that old '70s pop standby--the harmonica--while gliding along a sweet multi-instrumented backdrop.
It's the slower songs though that the real highlights. In particular, there are three that I think are just out of sight good. Of course "Slow," the first single that introduced us to Rumer is one of these highlights. Then there's "Come to Me High," which is dark and seductive with a downbeat melody and touches of light jazz that recall George Michael's romantic early-to-mid '90s work. It's just a lovely, sexy song; every time I listen to it I feel transported. "Aretha," a touching tribute to soul singer Aretha Franklin, is another amazing song. This one tells the story of a teenage schoolgirl who comes from an unpleasant home life. Although she "doesn't have the right shoes" and her mother doesn't notice her, she's got Aretha on her headphones to confide in as she walks to school in the morning. Even if this isn't based on a real experience, it feels poignant and honest.
Other highlights include lovelorn "Take Me As I Am," with its rich instrumentation of guitar and strings, and soulful, sad "Blackbird," which segues into the gauzy "On My Way Home," the track on which she sounds most like lang, backed by slow guitars and a bit of country twang. Don't miss bonus track "It Might Be You," a remake of the theme from the classic '80s film, Tootsie.
Like a comfortable chair you never want to get up from, Rumer's debut album will be welcome on replay and entices us for more. A glimpse into Rumer's backstory hints that there are many more tales to tell. Certainly a Pakistani-born Brit whose parents split after returning to England and it was discovered that her father was actually the Pakistani family cook has some angst to draw on.
Best: Slow, Aretha, Come to Me High, Saving Grace, Take Me As I Am, Blackbird