Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: Kate Nash, My Best Friend is You

[Ed. note: Two A+ records in one week? It's true. These are two of my favorite releases yet this year. 2010 has been great for music!]

Kate Nash
My Best Friend is You

I believe Kate Nash has had her heart broken, or very nearly so. At the very least she has come to the sentient realization that her love rests in the hands of someone else, a very dangerous emotional position—she’s been showing all her cards. Luckily for us, some of the best art has been created about this very situation, and Nash’s latest release is no exception. Instead of desperately trying to regain face, to play it cool in order to come out on top, she has opted, in typical Nash fashion, for total disclosure: even the title of My Best Friend is You admits some conscious vulnerability, as if she’s fully aware she’s putting all her eggs in this one basket.

This is a stellar work. Vulnerability suits Nash better than the snarky, whether she’s wailing “Later on I’ll cry my stupid eyes out!” on “Later On” or quietly, endearingly revealing the simple requirements of love on “I Hate Seagulls.” There’s quite a bit of variety here; she uses Regina Spektor-esque keys and verbal riffs on “Pickpocket,” while she screams like Karen O on “I Just Love You More.”
There are infinite Yeah Yeah Yeahs influences on My Best Friend is You, as well as 80’s synth, almost Bowie-style, most notably on “Later On.” She has mastered the art of constructing a song in its entirety, leaving no stone unturned, nor any part of the song too empty. The music, even without the powerful lyrics, is simply great: the orchestrated, upbeat opener “Paris” thrills with cymbal crashes and violin shrieks, while equally upbeat and delightful is “Early Christmas Present,” which merges a story of cheating and secrets with handclaps, plunky keys and ringing windchimes.

The peak of this album is by far the expansive “Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt,” which begins with simple music and lyrics and growing gradually more complex and meaningful, focusing on the inevitable failures of a relationship and where to lay the blame. This synthesizes about four different songs into one; it culminates in a spoken-word segment about the larger failures of the world and personal angst, which seems slightly contrived unless I’m willing to overlook my cynicism and consider it authentic and therefore quite moving. “Mansion Song,” too, is all spoken-word over a scratchy old recording of a woman singing, and here Nash is at her most forceful and unapologetic: “I can get fucked like the best of men!” It’s a gendered, empowered verbal smackdown that showcases a new side of her musical abilities, as the song segues into a Dum Dum Girls-esque, lo-fi noise jam under a poppy, playful chorus.

But Nash is at her heartbreaking best on the second track, “Kiss That Grrrl,” which conveys such a specific and relatable emotion that it is inherently appealing. With a Motown backbeat reminiscent of recent She and Him or the Shirelles, “Kiss That Grrrl” is a wonderful mélange of new and old sounds, complemented with an even-handed dusting of angry hurt: “Kiss that girl and I will shrink her / and I will die and I will think of / a thousand ways that I can hurt you / and you will never touch my hand.” It’s as scathing as it is exposed. The bridge is pure and intense and simply the best, ending with a howling declaration laid atop escalating violin riffs: “I’ll be by your side until the very end / ‘Cause you’re my only friend!”

Listen to "Do-Wah-Doo" from My Best Friend is You:

-- Caroline Klibanoff


igs said...

I once heard caroline say, 'If music in 2010 were a dude, i'd totally marry him.'

Caroline said...

i told you that in confidence shmeegor

Juan Pablo Gonzalez said...

hey Caroline! a mexican fan here...
I've been trying to find your tweeter... please share!