Four years ago, Leona Naess’s life shattered. The folk-pop singer, once considered a rising star, was dropped from her label and split with her longtime manager, but all that paled in comparison to the real blow: Her father, an avid mountain climber, suffered a fatal fall. A New Yorker at the time, she returned to her native London and gradually, without a clear sense of what she was doing, started writing and recording songs with the producer Samuel Dixon. With no budget, they relied on pals to pitch in and, more often than not, went with the first take. The songs “came from complete desperation,” 34-year-old Naess says, “and complete calm. Nobody was really looking in my direction. I had all this time.” Some of the material was inspired by The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which she’d found in her father’s desk, as well as by the songs of Frank Sinatra, a favorite of her father’s whom she had always shunned. Naess ended up with thirteen albums’ worth of material, and then had to ruthlessly pare down to the eleven songs that made the record. It’s a sweet and poignant collection, mostly about dealing with the sudden onset of maturity. But it isn’t all somber—a lively girls’-night-out drinking song called “Leave Our Boyfriends” deserves to be the hit Naess has never had.
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