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Nedelle - Republic of Two


San Francisco Bay Guardian

If Vacaville-reared, Oakland-rooted Nedelle Torrisi is anywhere as smooth live as she is on her debut album, Republic of Two, she's gonna be a star. She's gonna blow up like a sex bomb—except she's so not, I'd say, scanning her artfully artless CD sleeve. She's gonna be big like Astrud, Darlene, Laverne, and all of those other pop-hyphenate chanteuses who can make your happy hour by serving up something dulcet. She may even earn the right to that first name-only handle.

Torrisi's album exudes that kind of confidence, decorated with silky yet simple vocals recorded to emphasize intimacy, and girded with originals that sound like lost tracks by early Everything but the Girl or some other retro-minded, blue-eyed and pale-faced English band with a good R&B and jazz record collection. Who knows—with the unexpected yet welcome changes of pop-jazz numbers like "Come Around," doo-wop-infused tunes like "I Lied," and sweet bossa nova fare like "Lament," this charming vocalist could be the next low-key young diva likely to succeed, right up there with that other respectful girl singer, Norah Jones.



Three words? flows like icewater.

As much as it's a cliche, summer really does call for a certain sort of music. There's a reason that the southern hemisphere produced Joao Gilberto and Orchestre Baobab, instead of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Hole. Sitting back in the sun, it's difficult to deny that the Beta Band's supremely mellow 3 EPs is a better choice of soundtrack than Modest Mouse's The Moon and Antarctica, no matter how great the latter is.

It's no small feat, then, that Nedelle has recorded 2003's finest summer record. It learns from the best: the breezy acoustic sashay of Getz/Gilberto; the vocal harmonies of Pet Sounds and 60s girl-groups; the Beatles' hand-claps; the simple, supple melodies of Carole King; Weezer's perfect, short-and-sweet running-times. At twenty-four minutes long, Republic of Two never has the chance to overstay its welcome; all but one of the eleven tracks begins and ends in under two-and-a-half minutes. The songs float in, shimmer, and fade into the pink sky.

Nedelle's voice is a light and creamy, far more reserved than the thick jazz pipes of Ella Fitzgerald or Diana Krall. Instead, she lets her lyrics bubble gently over the acoustic guitar, piano and organ - lazy words pull the sound out of her, the sound flowing around the consonants, into the vowels. "La la las," "ba ba bas" and "shooo-ahs" flutter out of the background, lending a fullness to the songs - particularly to the slink of "I Lied" and the choral sunshine of "Grow Willow Grow." Other highlights include "My Tendency," where Nedelle proves her ability to introduce a touch of melancholy, and the fifty-five second magic of "These Days," where violin and understated vocals grow beautifully out of the nylong-stringed guitar plucking. The only real dud is the woeful drum-machine during the title track's chorus: Republic of Two's strength is its humanness, its careless beauty, and the synthetic rhythm is like an artificial smile.

While some may quip about Norah Jones' lite-radio success, Republic of Two - like Jones' Come Away With Me - is effortlessly lovely, a delight regardless of who else is listening to it. This record proves the value of restraint; the beauty of a simple, sultry song on a sweltering summer day.



Nedelle's soulful, languidly sensual songs will hang on your ears like a pair of chandelier earrings. As you might guess from the album title, she writes songs of love and breakup, and delivers them from a distinctly personal, feminine angle. She has the phrasing of an Astrud Gilberto and the cool stylings of a modern Nina Simone; while she's been compared to Sade, Tracey Thorn and Nikka Costa, her style is more casually retro, as if the past lives within her. Perhaps she was born with her great-grandmother's heart.

Republic of Two has a strange, echoey sound, as if it was recorded underneath Hart Crane's bridge. Nedelle's tempo and delivery are easy, slow and swaying. Her lyrics ("I can't sleep at night / it only gets lonelier when I shut my eyes / you're no remedy / watching you breathe would surely be my demise") are so softly intoned that when they glide by, you're left with a feeling as cool and sultry as a linen shift on an August day. Unlike other new artists, Nedelle is not shy to acknowledge music's rich past, borrowing liberally from previous masters. She pays homage to Gilberto in "Lament", and riffs on Sam Cooke's "You Send Me", repeating the main chorus line between her own lyrics. She's mistress to a number of styles here -- bossa nova, jazz, funk, cool soul, and gospel -- and has a Prince-like focus in her subject matter, tackling seduction, sex, love and God over the disc's thirty minutes. With Republic of Two's constant style changes, timeless subject matter and comparatively brief running time, it's hard to believe any listener could get bored. This is a work of art designed for the Ritalin set -- ironically, set at andante. Nedelle is never in a hurry to end her explorations; she moves at an even pace throughout the disc. Even when she spurs the tempo forward, using gospel clapping in "Maybe" and finger-snapping in "Grow Willow Grow", she's still moving at a stroll -- it's just a slightly more businesslike pace.

It's these kind of juxtapositions -- fast and slow, hot and cool, sexy and soulful -- that sustain Republic of Two's artistic tension, and hopefully inspire a fervent fascination in the listener. If you're keen to encounter other restless musical souls, don't hesitate to check out Nedelle; she honors every genre she tackles, and dresses them up all pretty.


High Bias

With indie rock and pop bands raiding their parents' record collections with glee, it was inevitable that we'd get an artist who immerses herself in soul and jazz. Nedelle Torisi grew up the daughter of a jazz drummer and a pianist, and her music moves way beyond the typically confining limits of punk and postpunk on Republic of Two. She sings with a jazzy lilt, and if her voice will never compete with the pipes of soul divas like Aretha Franklin or Angie Stone, she's smart enough not to overextend it into realms it can't handle. The stripped-down arrangements-mostly piano, guitar and a subtle rhythm section-suit her modest ambitions; she presents her tunes as if they were playful confessions, rather than full-blown soul epics. It also doesn't hurt that she keeps her songs brief; only one of the eleven songs is over three minutes long, a couple are under two, and there's even one that's under a minute. "Come Around," "Maybe" and the title cut are charming slices of neosoul/pop, while "Lament" shimmies with a bossa nova groove. "Possess Me" mixes doo-wop, old school R&B and indie psychedelia for a gorgeous invitation to lust, while the plush "Let Me Explain" puts her childhood violin lessons and aptitude for string arrangement to use. "Too Late" is the kind of track Norah Jones would create if she was really as talented as babyboomer music critics would like her to be. On Republic of Two, every direction Nedelle moves in leads to gold.


Lost at Sea

Like a piece of cheesecake, drizzled in blueberries, staring you in the face at your local corner bakery, the works of Nedelle Torrisi may be partially good for you; but it's almost amusing in the face of being so irresistible. With classic jazz chords driving her angelic, soulful voice, she's got the musical nutrition covered - but her own sense of style and innocence makes for something downright special.

As a reviewer, I feel lucky when a debut CD is so ripe, vital and ready for release, which is where Republic of Two definitely stands. Describing herself as somewhere "between Ella Fitzgerald and Everything But the Girl, with vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Shirelles," it is almost surprising that she's actually dead-on in that description: her breezy, carefree blues slants match the sweet tones of her voice and her organic, sincere nature. What's more, the tracks are chic with a nod to trip-hop torch singers and sentimental lyricists, and she has enlisted members of The Moore Brothers, Call and Response and Karate to further ensure her staying power.

The daughter of a jazz drummer and a classical pianist, she's done her parents proud with this release. She sounds enchantingly like Bebel Gilberto on tracks like "Lament", with a light and tangy voice bewitching slyly dancing notes. Meanwhile, "My Tendency" could be a struggling, emotional aside to Chet Baker, matching "I Fall In Love Too Easily", tear for graceful tear. Every song rolls into the next for the same seamless quality befitting many classic releases, and she does such a fervent genre justice with ample grace.

Republic of Two is so versatile and so whole; its mellow, candlelit demeanor will not contentedly idle in the wayside, instead pulling out notes of easy, saucy color to draw you in. Please don't stray too far from sight, Nedelle, you have definitely established yourself as one to watch - closely and affectionately.



Every so often an artist pops up out of the blue to reminds us why we started reviewing music. The first album from California's Nedelle is a KNOCKOUT. Featuring many of the first songs that she has written, this 22-year-old lady has come up with a real winner here. Nedelle's voice is silky smooth and just a little bluesy. This album was recorded using vintage audio gear...which may explain why the sound quality bears a strange resemblance to stuff recorded in the late 1960s. Nedelle writes some great tunes to be certain...but her voice will likely be her strongest asset in the years to come. Despite her youth, she sings with a maturity and confidence that is missing in many artists twice her age. Republic of Two is a breath of fresh air...featuring eleven quality performances...each and every one as good as the next. Pop music of the highest caliber. Superb. Top picks: "These Days," "I Lied," "Too Late," "Possess Me," "Grow Willow Grow." (Rating: 5+++)


FM Sound

Thanks to Nedelle and her new album Republic of Two, jazz has never looked nor sounded better. Mixing class jazz and blues idea with pop stylings, Nedelle has invented her own sound that's sultry, genuine and intriguing. From the Sade-esque "Come Around" to the saucy bossa nova of "Lament" to the soulful ballad "My Tendency," Nedelle can do no wrong. Grade: A


Bay Area Buzz

Nedelle is great. She's so cool, I think she deserves her own genre. Let's call it Calinova-a style of music that shamelessly incorporates every soft, groovy sound on earth into a seductive, lazy style that only comes from California. To give you some idea of what Calinova sounds like: Bart Davenport, Call and Response, and The Moore Brothers are all local practitioners. Rufus Wainwright is a contender. But Nedelle is at the top of the list. Blending nylon stringed guitars, piano, keyboards, violins, bossanova beats, a cheesy drum machine and her own exquisite shoo-wop backing harmonies into a delicious, warm-as-the-sun backdrop, Nedelle portrays herself as the precocious chanteuse she is. At 22 years old, she demonstrates significant star power as the songwriter, composer, singer, chief instrumentalist, and producer of this, her first CD. This Vacaville native must have had plenty of time in her youth to listen to some really good records, along with honing her own excellent skills as a musician. The songs are all about love, with Nedelle usually casting herself as the poor soul stricken with the curse of loving too much ("My Tendency" being the standout). The title track is also a favorite, kind of like Rickie Lee Jones singing over Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" from a space capsule: "I'm aware self-pity won't make you appear, but you should take some notes on being sincere." Perhaps the most surprising thing about this record is its brevity-none of the songs (save one) is beyond three minutes in length-but this fact only underscores Nedelle's elegant economy and panache. It's the secret weapon of Calinova-style music: it captivates you completely and then it's gone, forcing you to hit the Play button again and again. Classic. -Bill Heehan


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