I love those moments when you discover a new album randomly and it’s the best thing you’ve listened to in weeks. The poster of Crush Songs was lying in the “free stuff” box of a nice Brunswick St record store. The drawing on it was cute and I was sure I heard the name of the singer somewhere before. That’s how I met Karen O.
For those who don’t know her, this US artist is the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with this band – the only song ringing a bell would be “Heads Will Roll” – but I can already say that the debut album solo puts you in a totally different mood than her previous band performances.
Crush Songs brings us right into the intimacy of Karen O, who pours her heart out in a pretty personal 25 minutes set. Alone with her acoustic guitar, the artist is clearly talking about ancient loves. She says it herself: “When I was 27 I crushed a lot.” Those songs are a proof of it, recorded privately between 2006 and 2007 through Julian Casablancas‘ studio label Cult Records.
The cathartic album delivers 14 lovely lo-fi tracks, which pretty much all have simple but poetic lyrics addressed to a mysterious “he”. All except a couple ones – we can find a tribute to Michael Jackson with “King”, or a sweet cover of The Doors‘ “Indian Summer” in tracks 11 and 12.
All the tunes are in the same spirit and it’s quite hard to separate one from another: these short songs – 1 or 2 minutes top – are to be listened to as a long love letter. Or like a mix tape you would have given to your old high school crush, providing that you live in the 90s and he owns a cassette player of course.
The whole record has this raw and dirty sound that accompanies the unfinished songs, and that’s where it takes all its charm from. O’ doesn’t seem to mind about the quality recording or the repetitive melodies as she whispers nostalgic lyrics to the auditor. The words seem way more important than the musical frame around them anyways.
Ultimately, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ icon is sharing her old feelings with us, and we should feel lucky for it. She seems to be a hidden child of Daniel Johnston, delivering these corny and bewitching pieces. Even though she’s been criticised for her lack of virtuosity in this album, Crush Songs stays noticeable for its musical honesty and simplicity, and is the perfect cure for a gloomy rainy day.
Hometown: New York.
Latest album: Crush Songs, released Sept 9, 2014.
Sounds like: Soko, Alvvays, Daniel Johnston.
Say what? O’ contributed a lot to Spike Jonze’s filmography: she has written the soundtrack of Where the Wild Things Are with a Daniel Johnston cover of “Worried Shoes” and “The Moon Song” is the main musical piece from the movie Her.
Amicalement vôtre, Charlotte