With My Best Friend is You, it seems Kate Nash has decided to shy far, far away from the sweetly sung, Lily Allen-tinged ditties on her debut. Well actually, there’s nothing too shy about it.
The 22-year-old’s effort, released on April 19, finds the English songstress dabbling in the territory of defiant riot grrrl rawrrr, complete with crashing drums, jagged guitar squeals, and far more experimental, layered song construction.
Take for instance “I Just Love You More,” a slow burning, building repetition of the same line: “I just love you more than…anything.” As the cymbals crash and dive deeper with each repetition, the singer slowly spirals into jittering cries and guttural yelps recalling the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ Karen O until completely breaking down, unleashing wild cries of “Bah, bah, bah, bah, dah, dah, bah, bah!” It’s a briefly amazing moment–and more importantly, an introduction to entirely new side of Nash we’ve never heard before.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any trace of Nash’s initial sound that brought her initial acclaim back with 2007′s Made of Bricks. With songs like the catchy first track “Paris” and the album’s lead single “Do Wah Doo,” Nash’s album blazes with the sunny piano melodies, hand claps, and blaring horns that colored her first album.
Later on with “I Hate Seagulls,” Nash closes her album in the same way she did her debut: a simple, melodious tune–occasionally silly and entirely heartfelt–which finds the singer cooing softly about all the things she hates (among them, scabs and “rude, ignorant bastards”), but ultimately returning to the one thing she does like: “You’re so nice, and I’m in love with you.”
For the most part, however, Nash isn’t so sentimental on My Best Friend is You. In fact, she’s as scathingly to-the-point and jealous as ever: “Kiss that girl and I will shrink up and I will die / And I will think of a thousand ways that I can hurt you, and you will never touch my hand,” she promises in the misleadingly sweet, twinkling chorus of “Kiss That Grrrl.”
While the singer’s musical references may have matured in the past three years from Lily Allen to Bikini Kill, her lyrics still paint her as a young spirit–at times immature and often emotional–though now with more anger and angst than ever before. Give “Mansion Song” thirty seconds and see if your eyes don’t nearly pop out of her sockets as Nash recites a caustic, damning monologue about women who allow themselves to be used. It’s a must listen, but be warned–she’s pissed.
Then there’s “Don’t You Want To Share The Guilt,” which begins simply enough with a lonely guitar strum and some twinkling bells; the tempo building slowly as Nash narrates a sad, broken love story. “I don’t know how more people don’t have mental health problems / Thinking is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever come across…” she suddenly begins to utter above the swinging beat, diving deeper and deeper into a rapid-fire monologue about life. And dictionaries. And India and pyramids and swimming and shouting. It’s dizzying, but brilliant at the same time–a perfect representation of the very manic thoughts Nash claims she cannot control.
Nash’s newest release is for fans of riot grrrl sound and ’60′s girl group pop (and quite the treat for fans of both). While I can’t guarantee that fans of her first record will take to My Best Friend is You quite as kindly, there’s just enough of a hint of sugary sweet sprinkled in between the raging rawrrr of the album to please listeners of all types.
Over five years ago, David Byrne met with Fatboy Slim to discuss a musical endeavor. His goal, initially inspired by the book The Emperor by Ryszard KapuÅ›ciÅ„ski, was to tell the tale of the theatrics of royal life through music.
After stumbling on a newspaper clipping written about his soon-to-be protagonist and enlisting some of the industry’s greatest vocalists (22 in all!) to help guide her voice, the project would evolve into what became known as Here Lies Love: A concept album, DVD, book, and proposed theater experience based on the life of former first lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, Imelda Marcos.
I pre-ordered the complete package a few months ago having found the concept quite ‘neat.’ Two weeks ago, it arrived in my mailbox–and now, the review.
First of all, the actual Here Lies Love book is gorgeous–a 114-page narration of not only the evolution of Byrne’s original idea for the album, but the story of Imelda Marcos that he shaped with his songwriting. In the front of the book is the double-disc of the album; on the back the DVD. Each song is given its own chapter inside, including full lyrics and key connections between the songs and Marcos’ personal life. It’s quite a treat!
So what about the music? Completely apart from the narrative, the album is rife with hits as well as a fair share of misses: Highlights include Florence Welch‘s soaring, bossa nova-tinged title track, “Here Lies Love,” Sia‘s twangy, swinging “Never So Big,” Natalie Merchant‘s gorgeously sung “Order 1081,” Kate Pierson‘s “The Whole Man,” and RÃ³isÃn Murphy‘s disco-licious “Don’t You Agree?”
Yet while Murphy’s song sounds like it could fit in snugly with her last effort, Overpowered, most of the other songs on the record sound nothing like that of their artist’s back catalog (not too surprising given all the tracks were penned solely by Byrne, and a few with Fatboy Slim). This reality can occasionally provide somewhat disappointing results, as with Santigold‘s pacified contribution, “Please Don’t.”
Even more problematic for me however was the nagging country influence that continued to rear its head between some of the better disco gems here, including Allison Moorer‘s “When She Passed By” and Steve Earle‘s “A Perfect Hand.” Even if they’re necessary for moving the narrative along lyrically, there’s no way I’ll be returning to those tracks.
Reading the book alongside the album helped to elevate the project to another level (which I absolutely admire and adore), but to be honest, I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed it had I opted for the “MP3 only” package. On the other hand, I suppose that’s the point. The music of Here Lies Love lends itself to a larger experience with the accompanying book and DVD.
In the introduction, Byrne acknowledges that Here Lies Love is in some ways a response to the music industry’s floundering state and an attempt to create something more for listeners: “As it is now incredibly easy to download just a single song off a new album release–or to rip just a couple of the most accessible songs–I, like many others, have wondered: How do we incentivize listeners to check out more of what we have recorded? Is it possible to have an experience of some added depth, as one sometimes does when listening to a series of songs?”
While Here Lies Love doesn’t completely have the legs to stand on its own as an album (though there are quite a few strong numbers), the charm and magic is in its complete visual, aural, and intellectual appeal.
For music fans with some cash to spare, I recommend diving into the complete Here Lies Love package–there’s a lot of rich substance for the reaping here.
Here Lies Love was released on April 6.
I was first introduced to Linda Sundblad back in 2006 after hearing her latest single at the time, “Oh Father.”
The song is a woefully delicious number, in which we find the guilt-ridden songstress pleading for forgiveness for indulging in dirty thoughts and some occasional self-pleasuring. “Touch of my Hand” it was not, but as with any singer who dives into that territory (see what I did there?), I was hooked. Soon after came Sundblad’s debut, Oh My God!, a compelling collection of meaty, fresh sounding pop tunes.
Four years later, Sundblad has returned to the Swedish music scene with Manifest. The album, much like its predecessor, is a bold pop record complimented by ’80′s synthesizers and modern electro noise.
Unlike some of the more forced pop revival efforts of late, there’s no pretense in the solid pop that Sundblad has produced for us here, making Manifest as instantly enjoyable as her debut.
With a touch of Madonna, a dollop of Ashlee Simpson, and a rich scoop of Robyn, Sundblad races through the whole of her album with sounds and words inspired by many of her pop contemporaries. The massive “Let’s Dance” is the perfect marriage of the three aforementioned artists, reveling in licks of faux-rock, classic dance rhythms, and brash delivery style.
While some of the brattier party anthems like “Making Out” and “2 All My Girls” may be slightly too cheeky for some, the hard hitting beats and slinky grooves scattered within the rest of Manifest have the ability to convert even the staunchest non-believers.
Highlights include “Intro (Choices),” the Kleerup-produced “History,” and “Damage,” the album’s shining triumph. Starting with a minimal synth beat and working into a sophisticated, ’80′s-tinged groove, the song evolves into an incredibly danceable contemplation: “Can we make up for the damage, or should I leave you out of my life for good?” The pain aches, but the beat feels so, so good.
While the album’s lyrics may be laden with heartbreak and tears, the sunny sounds of Manifest refuse to let itself to wallow in sorrow.
Perhaps the cheeriest of the bunch is “Suicide Girl,” a most fascinating, contradictory little ditty (and basically the musical version of one of my favorite Engrish tees).
While undeniably upbeat, Sundblad happily runs through the reasons she’s no good for this world. “Took too many pills, dialed 911, and now I’m playing cute in an ambulance.” It’s bound to offend a few, delight a few more, and keep everyone else talking.
Manifest is about as blissful as a pop record can be without crossing the border of camp. If you want a reason to smile, grab this one now.
Choice tracks: Intro (Choice), Damage, Suicide Girl, History
Manifest is now available worldwide on iTunes.
After months of tempting and teasing his fans with song clips and lyric bits, Simon Curtis has finally unveiled his debut effort, 8Bit Heart.
8Bit Heart is a hard-hitting collection of cutting-edge pop hooks, catchy electronic noises and storming, dancefloor-ready synthesized beats that come together to celebrate the very essence of modern pop.
With the vocal chops recalling that of a young Darren Hayes and the smooth, slick flow and raw energy of Justin Timberlake, Simon Curtis has what it takes to be what heâ€™s always sought after: the second coming of the modern male pop artist, upgraded and reprogrammed for the 21st century.
The entire album is available to download for free at his newly designed website, including hi-quality artwork from the campaign and full lyric sheets.
Someone sign this boy…and fast!
Lights is the debut album released on March 1 by Ellie Goulding, the 23-year-old British electro-pop chanteuse recently awarded with (or damned with, depending on your interpretation) the title of BBC’s Sound of 2010 Artist.
The distinction stems from a list compiled at the start of each year by the broadcasting network responsible for predicting the next movers and shakers in the industry (Little Boots topped the list in 2009; Adele in 2008).
With the title also comes a responsibility to deliver, something that has always seemed to plague the shortlisted winners with an impossible amount of criticism and hype before their debut ever reaches shelves.
Luckily, Ellie Goulding can officially breathe a sigh of relief.
Lights is a buoyant, fluttery album complete with ten numbers that flow together effortlessly, all tied together with Goulding’s signature child-like warble that falls somewhere in between Joanna Newsom and a far less moody Lily Allen; strong for belting, though often fragile enough to shatter into pieces at the end of each of her word’s syllables.
The cohesive quality of Lights can be largely credited to its main producer, Starsmith, a newcomer to the mainstream music scene as well. The two established a wonderful working relationship together (as seen in the ever-increasing number of YouTube videos recorded together), lending itself to the strong collection of tracks that became the singer’s debut. The producer’s work on Lights is as much responsible for Goulding’s skyrocketing to fame as it is his own, now producing for a variety of major ticket acts including Cheryl Cole and Diana Vickers.
“Starry Eyed” and “Under the Sheets,” the album’s two lead singles, are undoubtedly the album’s strongest offerings: the former, a hectic explosion of twinkling sounds and jittery vocal tics that won the blogosphere’s approval as one of Goulding’s first offerings to the public; the latter a brilliant, kaleidoscopic mesh of plodding drums and exasperated cries of “We’re under the sheets, and you’re killing me!” that easily trumped most of the other pop singles released last year.
While it’s true that there aren’t many obvious standouts on the record, the fact doesn’t take away from the album’s plentiful successes. “This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)” is probably the album’s greatest triumph apart from its singles, as Ellie goes through the motions of a relationship: “This love is be and end all / This love will be your downfall,” she warns throughout the glittering, dance-ready chorus.
The spectacular combination of synth-pop, vocal layering and dramatic strings grant “Your Biggest Mistake” some of the catchiest riffs and brightest melodies of the bunch. Later on, during the chilly longing of “Wish I Stayed,” Ellie touches down to Earth in the song’s echoed introduction and prompts: “Why can’t we speak another language, one we all agree on? Why when men look outside, they see houses, instead of the fields they grew from?”
Goulding’s debut is an honest, delicate collection of flowing ambient pop that doesn’t fill the airwaves with messy gobs of loud instrumentation–a welcome addition to counter the increasingly busy sound of pop in 2010. While the album may not produce any gigantic radio hits, there are still plenty of wonderful, heaven-sent sounds and melodies here to keep Lights burning bright long after the first play.
Click here to purchase Lights.