God help me I want to love this release, I truly do.
The funny thing is I do not dislike The Absence, I nothing it. This is simply the wrong year and the wrong economy for an incredibly gifted vocalist to release an incredibly average recording so let us start there. A somewhat muddy sound quality on a release that is at times multi-lingual as well as an odd eclectic mix of more pop oriented jazz combined with world and Latin music begins stripping my musical transmission almost immediately. I love both Latin and world music but the issue here is an ebb and flow of lyrical cohesion that makes sense. Am I comparing this release to her first two releases and could that account for the less than favorable comparison? Perhaps...Is that fair? Probably not.
Do I blame Gardot? No...Produced by Heitor Pereira, the blame if any is to be placed in terms of the conceptualized nature and over all quality of the release in general would fall squarely in his lap. But is it a bad record? No. Average at best and only tedious at select moments this is simply a different artistic riff for Gardot whose supreme talent literally saves a release that would have fallen straight off a cliff in the hands of a lesser talent. Bright spots? No particular tunes leap out as note worthy nor do any particular sections qualify as sonic clay pigeons either. The best comparison would be that sweater you get for Christmas. The sweater is the right size and color but you were simply hoping for something better.
The world music influences are nice as she sings in English, French and Portuguese. The tunes however are virtually all mid-tempo numbers that can easily begin merging together unless you are able to give the release your undivided attention while listening. There are a half dozen new female vocalists that are breaking this year to wide spread critical acclaim and while they may not have the major label backing Gardot does, talent will win out in the end. The gap is closing and singers such as Gardot and Diana Krall need to be looking over their collective shoulders...
A good release. Not great. The sonic equivalent of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree - all it needs is a little love.