Kate Nash

Made of Bricks

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On a first listen to Kate Nash's debut Made of Bricks, it's easy to hear the similarities to her contemporaries (Lily Allen, the Streets, Amy Winehouse) and influences (Björk, Robbie Williams). Her most popular songs are both intimate and confrontational, using brief portraits and slang-conversational vocals to illustrate the larger issues going on -- the dinner party that exposes a crumbling relationship on "Foundations" or the futility of using "Mouthwash" as a defense against feelings of low self-worth. The music is explosive and sample-driven, but with plenty of ties to contemporary pop, such as the frequent piano runs and occasional chamber brass or woodwinds. Spend time with this album, however, and Nash is revealed as much more than the sum of her parts. First, she's an excellent songwriter who illustrates her tales of romantic woe and inadequacies with grace and many subtleties. (It's easy to see why Allen saw Nash not as a rival but a fellow artist, and how the two quickly became friends.) Nash's frequent sing-speak vocals and rather, erm, direct manner on some songs ("Dickhead," "Shit Song") are what most naysayers immediately point to, but her quiet rage on the former track is tremendously effective. Still, what impresses the most about Made of Bricks are her deft sketches of deteriorating relationships, whether they're being loudly destroyed ("Foundations" again) or wryly and tenderly closing ("Birds"). Nash has plenty of maturation to do as a songwriter and performer, but she shows considerable promise on this debut.

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