Don’t you hate it when your favorite artist, who you’ve known since the origin of their career, loses that edge that you love and ‘goes mainstream’? We all know the feeling and sadly, it’s a common occurrence. However, in Kate Nash’s Girl Talk we get a breath of fresh air as we see the phenomenon reverse itself as she strays from the polished sounds of her former label, Fiction Records, and previous two albums, Made of Bricks and My Best Friend is You, both of which landed within the top ten on the UK charts. With Girl Talk, Nash has overturned this common progression and has released an album that is both musically and lyrically stripped down and raw.
As per Nash’s sonic history, one would expect a texture typical to modern pop production – a pristine, smooth, and polished sound, such as the sound present on both My Best Friend is You and Made of Bricks. However, Nash cranks the gain! This album, which has already been compared stylistically to a more garage-band and indie rock sound, is watermarked by a cohesive grittiness of texture and lo-fi tonal character.
With the drums loose and ringy, it’s almost as if maybe they were recorded in a closet. The bass growls and buzzes along to punky tracks and occasionally exhibits human imprecision, while standing feedback from guitars bleed into the space of several songs, and the overall tone takes on the shredded quality typical of live recordings. Nash takes remarkable liberty with her voice, which proves to be an instrument of very flexible tonal malleability as she goes between growls, shrieks, and yells before returning to the virtuosic, gorgeous tone we all know she possesses. Auto-tune? Without saying that it might not be present in some small way, minimal pitch correction is in the presence of the bends, falls, and other vocal effects that Nash executes manually via the mastery she has over her own voice.
Lyrically, Kate Nash has always been impressive – her ability to communicate with charm, wit, and edge is well documented and has taken her to the top of European and US charts alike; however, this time the gloves are off. Nash’s lyrics are direct and piercing, which blends perfectly with the texture of her new sound, and not much is off limits. Lyrics touch upon aspects feminism, sexual/gender abuse, and sexual ambiguity, as well as the more common themes of love, longing, and jealousy. Also impressive is that such a thematically heavy album has turned out to be so easy to listen to as a result of the artistry of a great lyricist.
Let’s be honest, though – by retrograding her sound and production philosophy, Nash has alienated a significant portion of her audience in order to make something that is more real for her. However, while I unfortunately don’t see accolades piling up for this album, Kate Nash did exactly what she wanted to with this album. She broke away from her mainstream production label and made an album more personal, emotional, and crass than anything we’ve heard from her, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Do yourself a favor and go check out Girl Talk for yourself!