Hanne Hukkelberg Blood From a Stone

Superficially, Blood from a Stone should slide seamlessly and innocuously into a Starbucks CD rack, although the latest effort from Norwegian chanteuse Hanna Hukkelberg is more sonically ambitious than it at first seems. Opener the ascending "Midnight Sun Dream" is a grower that needs repeated listening for sustenance. "Bandy Riddles" pins the singer's ethereal lilt to pretty strings and out-there percussion, her haunting voice downplaying terrible lyrics (i.e., "that's where our love belongs"), while "Seventeen" melds a hint of cabaret, pathos with the suggestion of a boy-toy dalliance ("He's 17, he's like a machine"). Throughout, Hukkelberg swirls together the familiar though dissimilar influences — look for Tom Waits, Broken Social Scene and even Cree Summer nods. More often than not, the formula enchants (especially on "No One but Yourself"), although when it fails it either comes across as pompous ("Salt of the Earth") or sounds like Kate Bush on a little codeine ("Blood From a Stone"). Tip: wear headphones. (Nettwerk)