New Music Discovery: Kate Nash
This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
What’s Making Me Happy This Week is a new music discovery that isn’t really new at all. That’s OK – sometimes an artist slips through the cracks. There’s always a chance to catch up. If the music is really good (not just in the moment, but genuinely good), you can pick it up for the first time years or even decades after its initial release and appreciate it just the same. (In this case, I had a friend insist that I would like the artist in question – Kate Nash – but I was too full of my own musical snobbery to give it a chance at the time. Let that be a lesson to all you music snobs out there. Like me. Luckily, my lapse here was only a few years and there’s ample opportunity to get right up to speed. Some mistakes are fixed rather easily once they are acknowledged. But I digress.)
For several months now I’ve had Kate Nash’s debut album Made of Bricks waiting patiently on my iPod to be discovered when I was ready. Despite being a platinum-selling UK number-1 album when it was released back in 2007, yielding a hit single “Foundations,” and winning her at least one “Best Female Artist” award, I completely missed the Made of Bricks train. It wasn’t until her third album Girl Talk was released this year that I actually began to pay attention to this wonderful British singer-songwriter. And by pay attention, I mean download Made of Bricks, only to ignore it until this week.
Based solely on her debut album, Nash is witty and sharp, using her sweet voice for dark effect. Her music is at once quirky and poppy, telling a vividly detailed story (usually of heartbreak) without losing the catchiness of a traditional pop album. She reminds me of early eels or Liz Phair, which makes for very good company. Like those predecessors, her album was more likely to be critically acclaimed than universally loved – despite her youth (Nash was 20 when Made of Bricks was released) and “cute” factor, Kate Nash will never be confused with Katy Perry. Song titles like “Dickhead” and “Shit Song” make sure of that (though my favorite song on the album is the last, which is cheerily titled “Merry Happy”).
I’m excited to hear more of Nash’s work, though I’m nervous that, like the aforementioned eels and Phair, the follow-ups will never live up to the initial promise. Reviews of Girl Talk are a mixed bag, with everyone agreeing (and many disliking the fact) that Nash has changed her sound from pop to punk rock, a transition she began on her second album My Best Friend Is You and continued full force on Girl Talk. That said, I’m not at all afraid of an album (Girl Talk) that “sounds like she decided to have a heart to heart sob session after about eight pints of beer and a few Bikini Kill records.” Bryant Kitching of CoS says that “Kate Nash will kick your ass – as soon as she’s done painting her nails.” When Liz Phair was at the peak of her powers, that quote would have suited her as well. Either way, I have something fresh and exciting to listen to in Made of Bricks and two more albums after that.
And that’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week. Merry Happy.
Kate Nash – Foundations
Kate Nash – Pumpkin Soup
 Apparently I wasn’t alone. The AV Club review of Girl Talk notes that “though [Made Of Bricks] went platinum in her home country and landed her a Brit award[,] it didn’t attract much notice in the States.”