We have an enduring memory of seeing Alessi Laurent-Marke for the first time: still just 17 years old, clutching a guitar and peeking out from under her fringe, her body language spoke of awkwardness. How could this timid schoolgirl possibly command a stage? With ease, as it happens, her voice airy as candyfloss and languorous like an August afternoon, it’s no wonder her music teacher’s ears were pricked when Laurent-Marke submitted ‘Glendora’ as part of her music studies. The song subsequently ended up on her Mike Mogis-produced (‘Bright Eyes’) debut, Notes from the Treehouse.
Now 20, Alessi returns with this sophomore LP of mellow, whimsical folk-pop. Stripped of the debut’s lush strings, Laurent-Marke is exploring a countrified sound (‘Must’ve Grown’, ‘Stalemate’), with just a few horn embellishments (‘Wire’). If there’s one criticism, it’s that the album floats by on such a gentle keel that we’re left longing for a tune to showcase the turbulence of youth. But Alessi’s Ark embraces subtlety and does so with an easy grace.