London’s latest hip-pop princess lays down a wide variety of winning tracks on her debut full-length, Made of Bricks. First discovered by U.K. smash-hit Lily Allen, Kate Nash certainly owes some similarities to that diva-without-smugness, like poppy, electronic beats and low London accents, but Nash is really forging her own way, brick by brick. And while some of the steps are better than others, there’s no doubting she’s going strong.
Made of Bricks unfortunately opens with its weakest track, the repetitive staccato beat that is “Play” – but it’s only a minute long, and leads into Nash’s hit U.K. single, “Foundations”. With a wonderful rhythm and yes, great London vocals (and an accent more pronounced than Ms. Allen), “Foundations” is high and light, but not airy or atmospheric, but instead just totally catchy. The second single, “Mouthwash”, follows, and it goes more straightforward, yet also has an expansive element. That build leads it into real power, which does kind of sneak up on you. Unsurprisingly, Nash’s two latest singles, “Pumpkin Soup” and “Mariella”, are also two more of the top Bricks tracks. “Pumpkin” is big and carrying as some epic, yet still informal pop, but follower “Skeleton Song” tries the same trick again, to not quite as strong an effect. “Mariella” has a slow, unnecessary opening, but then picks up into a rollicking good time.
The rest of Made of Bricks features some interesting changes that mostly work better as changes, than rather as something on their own. The low-key but biting “Dickhead” is certainly grooving, and the wistful “Birds” melodic, but one can’t help but feel that this isn’t what Nash does best. The twinkling pop of “We Get On” is enjoyable, but limited, while the electronic beat of “Shit Song” is simple-but-effective, and wins more thanks to Nash’s personality than anything else. Strongest of these all are the final two pieces, “Nicest Thing” and “Merry Happy”. “Nicest” shows a stripped-down Nash (figuratively speaking), sad and raw, and is not just strong as a change, but stands just fine with its haunting emotion. “Merry”, meanwhile, is Nash at her snarky-est, laid over a bopping piano-pop beat.
After reaching #1 in the U.K. in 2007 with Made of Bricks, Nash looks set to hit America hard in the new year – she’s even being featured for the first full week of 2008 in MTV’s ‘52/52’ campaign (fifty-two artists in fifty-two weeks, getting 11 hours of coverage each). And while there’s a definite Anglo-sheen to this twenty-year-old, Nash plays it just right. As long as tracks like “Dickhead” and “Shit Song” don’t get her knocked off the puritan U.S. airwaves, she should cross the pond well.
MP3 Stream: “Pumpkin Soup”