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Robin Hilton

I grew up in a town of about 6,000 people in rural Kansas back in the '70s and '80s. I've never romanticized it much, though it was certainly a simpler time and, for better or worse, it's where I learned to make some sense of my life. The world you inhabit when you come of age in your teen years has a way of digging its claws in you. As the years pass, no matter how far you try to get away from it, it stays with you. The people, the places, the sounds and even the smells become a part of your DNA.

Regina Spektor has spent much of the past decade perfecting an oddly lovely mix of sweet melodies, piano-driven pop, flashes of experimentalism, and cheery but wistful ruminations on love and heartache. But Spektor writes and performs with the passion of punk, and her otherwise innocent story-songs take unconventional turns.

The Los Angeles-based singer Simone White has a voice like ether. It's sweetly airy and hypnotic. Hearing it can pull you under to a strangely beautiful, glittering world where nothing seems real.

On "In The Water Where The City Ends," from her latest record, Silver Silver, White's voice is at its most haunting as she recalls, in disjointed poetry, the tsunami that devastated Japan's Tohoku region last year.