|by Blair Fraipont|
|Artist: Nellie McKay Album: Get Away From Me Label: Columbia
Spring boarding her musically dexterously hyper self into our lives comes Nellie McKay. Hailing from straight outta' New York, she has miraculously appeared on the scene bearing great and unique gifts of song with Get Away From Me, her debut recording.
Not since Kate Bush and maybe for the first time ever has a debut record covered so much ground musically and been able to hold itself without breaking under pressure or pretense. Nellie moves from one style to the next flawlessly with the aid of producer Geoff Emerick, who engineered many of The Beatles recordings as well as producing notables such as Elvis Costello. He brings her sparkling and anxious vocals into the mix wonderfully while McKay colors the album with her refreshing musical arrangements.
A native Harlem resident, Nellie McKay oscillates between styles both dated (tin-pan alley inflections and slow and sensuous jazz ballads) and current (rap, reggae, and disco) without slipping or sounding overtly contrived. Obviously she pulls from a wellspring of influences. The magic of the record is that she sounds bitter one moment and sweet the next while always adding her original lyrical sarcasm and often poignantly hilarious observations into the mix. Here is a sample of her lyrics from "Toto Dies" which tackles political indifference:
"Yeah I'll have my coffee black, hey look we're bombing Iraq, I guess that's the only way, oh did I tell you we got Fifi spayed."
The listener shall never become tired with "Get Away From Me," even as the final notes fade on disc two, it is inevitable you will want more. Currently, McKay is working on a follow up record which I am eagerly awaiting as I am sure you will as well after one listen to her triumphant introduction.
Artist: !!! Album: Louden Up Now Label: Touch and Go Records
If lately every time you listen to current dance music you feel that you are taking another unavoidable trip through gay-robot-hell, then you should check out !!!'s new album. Pronounced as 'chk, chk, chk' or as any series of three percussive noises, !!! make upbeat music that sound as if The Clash and Gang of Four gave birth to a bastard child who elongated their songs with a drum machine and incomprehensible lyrics. There are no ex-gospel turned banal disco divas singing and screeching on "Louden Up Now."
And not all tracks are mindless drumbeats topped with youthful cursing. The music is layered with sonic synthesizer effects and multiple drum tracks (mostly played by real human beings) which evolve and alter as each song progresses. Granted there is something completely ridiculous with !!!'s song titles, lyrics, and even their music, but it is that exact ridiculousness that fuels the music and what makes it ultimately freeing.
Here are a couple of records you may have neglected that may perfectly fit that post Valentine's Day/pre-summer lull:
Artist: kd lang Album: Songs of The 49th Parallel Label: Nonesuch
Lang's emotional takes on Canadian singer-songwriters cover the range of the "I still love you, let me be your doormat" essence of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" to the exuberant and ecstatic cries of Jane Siberry's "Love Is Everything." The fresh and sparse arrangements beautifully compliment the seemingly everlasting chill of winter.
Artist: Joan Armatrading Album: Lover's Speak Label: Denon
Released in 2003 and her first since 1995, Joan brings us another set of songs that wallow heavily in the misgivings of love and relationships, to the everlasting pining for that one true love to the celebration of love found. Beautifully composed, it showcases her endless exploration of romance. Packed with enjoyable acoustic performances and precise ballads that never grate on the nerves. Actually, Lover's Speak may work as the perfect tool for exercising those post-V-day demons.
Blair Fraipont may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No.2 March 11, 2005