Fall is San Francisco's most gothic and recognizable season. In contrast to our drab winter skies, unpredictable spring showers, summer microclimates, and endless foggy afternoons, autumn arrives in a snap, with crisp air, long shadows, and dramatic full moons. Stockholm-based Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun's introspective music is perfect for fall: she thoroughly explores uneasy moods on her aptly named fifth full-length, Changing of the Seasons (Cheap Lullaby).
The album's hushed title track includes gently picked acoustic guitar work and a spacious arrangement where Brun muses about the moment when one contemplates leaving a lover for someone else. "It's hard to be safe," she sings, "difficult to be happy." Tension and uncertainty is ever-present in Brun's writing. She excels at exposing love's contradictions and disappointments with a delicate emotional perception that, despite all the heartbreak, doesn't wallow in self-pity.
Whatever her poetic narratives are about, Brun sounds fantastic singing them. She's a rare talent who wields an arresting falsetto that's both classic and modern. She's been compared to Dolly Parton, Carole King, and Nico as well as Björk, Adele, and K.D. Lang. Excellent phrasing and austere lyrics invite the listener to contemplate, debate, and empathize with her subjects and material, which is often intimately autobiographical. Listening to Brun's work, it's tough not to feel like a guilty eavesdropper sneaking a look in a friend's diary while house-sitting. Not that Brun would mind.
She isn't afraid to sound vulnerable, barely holding on to her emotional composure on songs like "The Fall," in which she croons, "We were wrong, to stay this long / Let me go, let me fall to the ground." Like other numbers on Seasons, the track is laced with tasteful string accompaniment, arranged by Denmark's Malene Bay-Landin and New York City's Nico Muhly.
Although the "strings and sad singing" motifs conjure Nick Drake in his Bryter Layter (Island, 1970) period, Seasons also showcases inventive, percussive numbers like "The Puzzle" and "The Treehouse Song," which gallop, swing, and accentuate Brun's cadence. "Armour"'s heavenly harmonics could support a scene from the 2001 French movie Amelie.
At the wonderfully cozy Café Du Nord, listeners will have an excellent chance to hang on Brun's graceful notes, which trapeze playfully through compositions like "My Star" and "Linger with Pleasure." One hopes she'll touch on selections from 2004's masterful A Temporary Dive (DetErMine/V2), a putf8um seller in Scandinavia, and with drummer and vocal accompaniment in tow, Brun will usher us effortlessly into autumn's dark, hopeful moments.
With Tobias Froberg
Tues/28, 8 p.m. $12
Café Du Nord
2170 Market, SF