Brave, Bold But Bad

Weak songs sink Nash’s new album

by Dan MacRae

Kate Nash
Girl Talk
Dine Alone
2/5

Ugh. To be honest, I feel bad panning Kate Nash’s third album. On paper, Girl Talk ticks off all sorts of positive developments for the semi-likable Brit singer-songwriter. She’s punkier! She’s bolder! She’s made an album that’s unapologetically feminist! Nash even sounds like she’s borrowing from the ’80s-’90s twee pop band Heavenly and singer-songwriter (and ex-Ash guitarist/pop-rock firecracker) Charlotte Hatherley!

With all these welcome changes, how the fuck did Girl Talk, which is full of rock ’n’ roll bluster and swing-for-the-fences-style tunes, end up such a dud?

Nash’s confidence is admirable, but her actual songs? Not so much. Do you want underwhelming surf rock? “Death Proof” has you covered. Maybe you’re in the market for some well-intentioned but clunky Mom-esque hip-hop? “Rap For Rejection” is all set for your listening pleasure. Even “Sister” — a rollicking, emotional boil-over that’s the album’s best song — is tripped-up by brutal lyrics: “Oh I’m sorry, is that too dramatic/I should be far more plastic.” Gaaaaah. Just gaaaaaaah.

There’s so much on Girl Talk that sounds like it was designed to burst right out at you but somehow arrives flat and muddled. I like the new Kate Nash, and Girl Talk is the kind of album she should make. It’s big and bold and fearless. It’s just too bad that it’s not good.

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Atoms for Peace
AMOK
XL
3/5

“Why all the Coldplay jokes?” he asked me.

“Because it’s easy,” I told him and he rolled his eyes. “No, it’s easy because people get it. When I joke about Coldplay, everyone gets the reference. Nobody laughs at Chickenfoot jokes.”

“Who’s Chickenfoot?”

“Exactly. Chickenfoot is the guys that got kicked out of Van Halen: Sammy Hagar and, ah, the bass player, what’s his name…”

“Michael Anthony got kicked out of Van Halen?”

“Yeah, yeah … Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, plays bass in Halen now. So Hagar and Michael Anthony started their own band, Chickenfoot, and they’ve got the drummer from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

“Chad Smith? Nice. What jokes do you have about Chickenfoot?”

“Do you know Atoms for Peace?”

“Who?”

“Exactly. Atoms for Peace is the singer from Radiohead, the guy who produces Radiohead albums, some guy who plays with Beck, and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have a new album out, it’s okay. Some nice ambient electronic stuff and Radiohead guy sings the way he does. I’m reviewing it. I want to say they’re the thinking person’s Chickenfoot.”

“Oh.” /Emmet Matheson

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Blue Hawaii
Untogether
Arbutus
3.5/5

The songs on Blue Hawaii’s first full-length flow together like a series of dusky lagoons. As the band name suggests, the album is as lovely and melancholy as a resort in a wintery off-season. Each liquid gem of a song is insular and inward seeking. The lyrics are introspective and personal, and the electronic beats and synths are gentle sometimes rousing into a kind of chamber house music.

The band wrote the album an ocean apart from each other over a period of two years, which may account for its intimate nature. Ra-, a member of Calgary/Montreal band Braids, has a bright voice that can escalate to ecstatic heights, but on Untogether, she reigns it in, keeping sotto voce, as if singing to herself. Untogether’s aesthetic evenness is pleasing, but I look forward to more peaks and valleys on their next collaboration. /Amber Goodwyn

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Leif Vollebekk
North Americana
Outside
3/5

The first time I listened to North Americana, Montreal singer-songwriter Leif Vollebekk’s follow-up to his 2010 debut Inland, I was just about fell asleep. Mind you, I was recovering from the flu and was tired. But this is a mellow bordering on morose album. “Cairo Blues”, “At the End of the Line”, “A Wildfire Took Down Rosenberg” and “Pallbearer Blues” are four of the 10 songs. And the lyrics, for the most part, are gloom and doom too. Sparse arrangements predominate, culminating in “From the Fourth” where it’s just Vollebekk and his guitar signing about a lost love. On other songs he’s joined by bassist Hans Bernhard , drummer Philippe Melanson and a few other musicians. For me, this disc stands as a lament for the decline of heartland America. As we’ve romanticized it, it’s a compelling place. In real life though … not so much. /Gregory Beatty