Nadine Shah

Fast Food

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Hard to place yet so familiar, the twitchy, goth angst of Nadine Shah is generally described as PJ Harvey mixed with Nick Cave, but that ignores her sly wit, coming off as if Morrissey were crossed with an ice queen and Bauhaus played in support. All that said, she's a unique voice as well, coming out of Whitburn, South Tyneside and still a master of the rustic American twang, just updated with a more modern twitch and punch. This sophomore effort is a less grand and wonderfully reserved alternative to her debut album, 2013's Love Your Dum and Mad. Here, short and passionate relationships are the thing, all of their agony and their ecstasy, and often in the same song. The aptly titled "Divided" steams up the windows with a sensual sway and its talk of perfect cheekbones, but there's also a "hidden jealousy" and plenty of other bad stuff right below the surface. "Fool" is the same kind of passionate and damned material, but with more of a beat and a hook, while "Nothing Else to Do" ("but fall in love") is a surprise, coming off as drunken, cursed chamber music. The beautiful musical twisting during "Big Hands" proves Shah is more than just a wounded wordsmith, while producer and co-writer Ben Hiller returns to paint everything a Depeche Mode- or Elbow-styled shade of black. With dangerous come-ons like "Check your pulse when I speak," the album's shocking cover art is a suitable mix of beauty and blood, and even if the first cut is the deepest, second album Fast Food is still wicked sharp.

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