Leona Naess’s latest self-titled disc is much less electropop-ified than its 2001 predecessor I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll. That’s even taking into account an opening track that bears a strong resemblance to one-hit-wonder Donna Lewis’s mid-’90s dance hit “I Love You Always Forever.” Working with Producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, The Jayhawks), the England-born/New York-based Naess has put together a roots-ier, more Sheryl Crow-like effort this time.
Naess and alt-country-poster-boy-turned Rock’N’Roll-er Adams were reportedly an item for a while, and the diary-like lyrics here indicate that the breakup was a particularly bitter one. “It’s only been pain loving you,” she sings on the hook-y roots rocker “Dues to Pay.” “And I loved you before you were king / Before the money was rolling in,” goes the fragile-voiced but strong-willed “Don’t Use My Broken Heart.” The terrifically catchy “He’s Gone” includes these lines: “He is gone like meaning from a song / He is done like a vampire in the sun.” And, on the pleasantly swaying “Yes It’s Called Desire”: “Sweet melodies bring bitter memories.”
Naess sounds like she’s ready to start again on the string-laden “How Sweet.” “Gonna tear it apart / Go back to the start / Pull the strings of my little heart / Gonna build it right back / Into a castle not a shack,” she sings. By the album’s last track though, she’s back to a pessimistic outlook: “There’s only one kind of love… but it’s always gonna be love and it will mess you up the same.”
Painful breakups often produce great albums (Adams’ own Heartbreaker among them), and Naess pens some catchy, often moody tunes to go with these sentiments. But the cumulative effect of this disc is a bit like Elvis Costello’s dull latest album of “gosh I sure am in love with Diana Krall” ballads. You just want to shake her, tell her to move on, and remind her there’s more to worry about (and write about) in the world than just a broken heart.