Decca France, ★★★★✩
THIS will not be the first time the work of Madeleine Peyroux has been described as ‘haunted’. But with Anthem, it’s not simply a matter of mood. The spectre is identifiable, and for once it is not Billie Holiday, though Peyroux was among the earlier contemporary revivalists of her vocal stylings.
Rather, the late Leonard Cohen hovers over proceedings, brooding and wry, as was his manner in his later career. It is a cover of his song that gives the album its title, and more importantly, its spirit.
Peyroux has long been an admirer and an interpreter of Cohen. An American jazz/pop singer, she is as nourished by her own Europhilia, and by the admiration of transatlantic audiences, as her folk-based Canadian predecessor was.
On her first collection of chiefly original material since 2011’s Standing On The Rooftop, she has too much class merely to imitate Cohen. Rather, it is his attitude that informs her eighth album: faintly sardonic, at once serious, amused and compassionate about the world’s vagaries.
With occasional exceptions (Cohen would not have stooped to Brand New Deal’s long sequence of ‘-ation’ rhymes), the downbeat lyrical precision in these tales of disintegrating lives is not embarrassed by the ghost of its master.
This reflects the way Peyroux has over the years developed her vocal style from mere pastiche of Holiday to something far more distinctive. Into the third decade of her career, she is her own artist; to borrow a Cohen line, this is Peyroux’s own ‘manual for living with defeat’.