Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kate Nash's Made Of Bricks...

So last week I invited you, my readers, to take the challenge of contributing to this website. A few of you replied and now it's a we thing instead of a me thing, which is totally rad. So, as of now I'm trying to assemble either an all new site that encompasses everything relevant in this vacuum world we call "popular culture" OR a mirror site to this one where we'd keep all the music-related content here and the other would be all the miscellaneous pucky and whatnot.

I imagine it'd be a bitch to archive all of the content on this page and bring it over there, so for now this is it. I really don't want to say a whole lot while I'm bouncing ideas around with friends across the country and trying to give this thing wings. Without further ado, allow me to introduce the newest addition to The Musicologist's blog; Keri, and her review of

Kate Nash - Made Of Bricks (released January 8, 2008; Fiction Records)
My first exposure to Kate Nash was when I saw her video for UK single “Foundations” on Italian MTV. I was drawn to the style of the video first, then after I downloaded the song I realized what a knack she has for intuitive relationship commentary. Her album, Made of Bricks, finally reached the States this January, and it’s clear that when she’s writing pop songs, she’s very successful. It’s only when she tries for more experimental, bluesy songs that she falls short.

The album opens with “Play”, a minute-long spoken word piece with sparse instrumentation and faux- improvisational layered vocals. The lyrics are repetitious: “I like to play” ad nauseum. From there, it moves to “Foundations”, which displays her potential, utilizing a simple piano tune and claps to back up a catchy melody. It also shows her sarcastic but accurate view of bad relationships: they always drag out far too long because it’s more convenient to stay together than break up. The following song, “Mouthwash”, runs in the same instrumental vein, matching bouncy piano with a down-to-earth, ‘everygirl’ tune. The lyrics aren’t especially well written; “This is my brain/ and even if you try and hold me back/ there’s nothing that you can gain”, but maybe that’s why they’re so charming.

As far as musically successful songs go, “Merry Happy”, the album closer, sticks to the same formula and works almost as well. “Pumpkin Soup” changes it up with jazzy horns and a fuller sound, but doesn’t stray too far from the pop template. Its lyrics continue in her straight-forward, no nonsense style: “I’m not in love/ I just wanna be touched”.

It’s only when she tries to be Regina Spektor circa 11:11 that she fails. “Mariella” begins with dragging piano and cymbals, her alto voice attempting a vibrato and sharp trills. The tempo increases, and her voice becomes more natural, but alternates between sung and spoken phrases. The song becomes more frantic and ends on a semi-shriek and a disjointed drum roll. Next, “Shit Song” travels from accidental-on-purpose loose drums and throat clearing to an obnoxious keyboard riff to piano arpeggios back to the same riff, backed by coos and whistles. It’s as pointless as the lyrics: “Darling don’t give me shit/ cause I know that you’re full of it”.

It’s a shame the album overall isn’t more cohesive. It’s as if she’s unable to accept her pop leanings, what with the fillers and failed vocal aspirations. Her voice is strong enough as is, and her lyrics set her apart from typical radio pop. My favorite lyrics, from “We Get On”, unfortunately aren’t backed by a suitable tune. Still, they tell an instantly recognizable tale of a distant crush that doesn’t turn into anything. She isn’t obsessed with the boy, but in the back of her mind, there’s still an idea that maybe something could happen between them. Maybe this album isn’t for anyone male or over 25, but it’s sweet and appealing songs like this that sell her; hopefully she’ll play to her strengths in the future.

by Keri, 1-31-08

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