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Marianne Dissard: The Cat. Not Me 

French-born Marianne Dissard left her longtime home of Tucson last year, but not before recording her third proper album, one that pairs ambitious musical leaps with greater emotional vulnerability.

Variety has characterized Dissard's musical path, from 2008's L'Entredeux (written with and produced by Calexico's Joey Burns), which found Dissard channeling Americana through her French chanson tradition, to the bright and theatrical L'Abandon (2011) to two loose, off-the cuff recordings, made in Berlin and Paris with her small touring ensembles. But The Cat. Not Me, composed with Sergio Mendoza, is bigger, stranger, wilder and artier than anything that's come before.

To pick just two highlights: "Je Ne Le Savais Pas" is a tour de force, with Mendoza creating a menacing and dramatic soundtrack for Dissard's panic-stricken vocals, while "Salamandre" is a whispered, ache-filled ballad.

Lyrically (Dissard offers English translations on her website), the album finds themes associated with a life in flux. There's a darkness and ferocity at times, deftly spotlighted by Mendoza's compositions. And there's a strong thread that hinges on questions of identity: "Did I grab this chance / I looked away ... I don't know any longer who I am," Dissard sings on "Election."

The musical partnership between Dissard and Mendoza breaks surprising new ground, with a confidence and an urgency to the songs that makes The Cat. Not Me is Dissard's most vibrant album yet.

More by Eric Swedlund

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