Victoria Celestine: From the Outside

You may have heard of 15-year-old Victoria Celestine. When she was 14 (and known as Victoria Zaleski), she recorded a handful of tracks with producer Gordon Raphael and did a few well-received acoustic shows here and there. Now she's released her first full-fledged album of mostly original songs (except for a wonderful, minimalist version of "La Vie En Rose" and a slow, violin-driven "Love Me Tender" as a hidden track), this time produced by Jacob Sciba in Austin. It is easy to see what attracted Raphael in the first place — she has a magical voice that sounds like Norah Jones on chamomile tea, and a songwriting talent rarely found in teenagers. Her mix of pop, folk, French chanson, and country is simple, but the songs are terrific and, as soon as you think you know what's coming, she stops cold or drops unexpected lyrical tricks like "I just want to mmm, I just want to oh" ("Run," one of her best tracks). Yes, she's too harmless at times, and I wish she had a little less sugar and a little more danger. But this isn't sugar: it's agave nectar. And she'll get it. Just wait a few years and see.

★★★ 1/2 (out of 5 stars)

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