Rhythm & Views

k.d. lang

"Let the world disappear," suggests k.d. lang, her clear-as-a-bell and perfectly pitched voice simmering its way through a jazzy melody buttressed by vibraphone, organ and twilight-fueled bass notes. The song is called "Sunday," and it's one of 11 lovely tracks that constitute Watershed, lang's first album of original material since 2000's Invincible Summer.

Six years in the making, Watershed is a sonic retreat from a planet plagued by problems better addressed by folk singers. When lang wishes the world away, she does so in the most "selfish" of ways: through seductive songs that speak directly to the listener, one heart to another, an intimate lifeline tossed across a chasm of loneliness.

In other velvet-morning tracks, like "Flame of the Uninspired," she finds herself "on the cusp of compromise / to living hell, I slipped and fell." Every piece of Watershed flows through romantic (and European) currents worn by everyone from Serge Gainsbourg to Avalon-era Roxy Music. The gorgeous minimalism of "Shadow and the Frame," with its eerie synthesizer notes, is a haunting meditation on life's elusive qualities that we struggle to attain yet rarely achieve.

Listening to Watershed, you will be devastatingly lulled into witnessing your environs burn away into ash--such is the unusual, elegant power of lang's voice, the poetic splendor of her writing. She has produced a sensual yet thoughtful effort that's inarguably among her finest moments.

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