By Amrit Singh
Kate Nash rolled into NYC this week for an instore (at the soon-to-be-dearly-departed Union Square Virgin Megastore) and a long-soldout headlining gig at Bowery Ballroom, in support of the Stateside release of her UK-dominating debut Made Of Bricks — just in time for the NY press to start taking a closer look at the 20-year-old and from whence she came. (Enter the Voice, the NYT, the Daily News.) The story goes: Kate was unknown two years ago, and thanks to some prime placement in Lily Allen’s MySpace Top 8, she started soaring, all the way to the top of the pops.
So, Nash’s arrival also becomes the perfect time for an(other) examination of those crazy kids and their blogspots and their MySpaces, and the musicians that rise from amongst them; it’s the 2.0 of the sort of pieces we first saw with the godfathers of MySpace hypestorms, Arctic Monkeys (and while I’m at it, happy 22nd birthday Alex Turner, you old timer, you). To wit: The AP takes a paired, net-based look at Nash and Vampire Weekend, and Sasha Frere-Jones’s offers his Kate-take via “Making It On MySpace” for the New Yorker. Sasha digs a little deeper into the story (e.g., Kate was signed to EMI before she even had a MySpace page for Lily to put in her Top 8) and concludes that “On the strength of “Foundations,” at least, Nash merits a shot at stardom.”
Walking into Bowery, I didn’t even have enough research under my belt to get as far as Sasha with my conclusions. We posted the “Pumpkin Soup” video and I enjoyed her Arctic Monkeys cover (kissing the godfathers’ rings, as it were), but I’d spent little time with time with the album; I’d just made sure to know enough to “know enough,” if you follow (“Okay, the Brit girl that’s like a mix of Regina Spektor and Lily Allen with a dash of acoustic-picked plaintiveness? Got it.”) And last night I’d fully expected to have Kate try to charm me — what I didn’t expect was to be legitimately and sincerely charmed. Still shy, sure, but only in banter, and even then not without poise. A few tunes came with Kate on guitar (like the crowd beloved “Dickhead,” and an animated, excellent “Birds”), but she spent most of the night behind the piano, obviously her primary instrument and where she showed off the Specktor-school syncopation, the quirky, babbling brook stream-of-consciousness lyrics, and the cadences that help keep those MySpacers attention spans in check. Actually, that’s one of Kate’s very best weapons: While the progressions don’t modulate much, the tempo certainly does, as in “Mariella,” which closed giddily on a tempo surging right through ’til the wheels came off. It was a lot like a little girl spinning faster ’til innocently, recklessly dizzy — if said little girl possessed a keen wit and a knack for beautifully rolling piano arpeggios.
Friends that actually knew Made Of Bricks seemed to be disappointed, musically; can’t say I’m surprised, it didn’t seem like a taut reproduction of the album’s studio production was the point. But even those folks disappointed by the sound admitted to submitting to Kate’s charming ways. It’s confessional and observant pop, not trying to be much more. It works. And you could do a lot worse. If you’re looking for a big pic of Kate for a personal wall poster, or cute videos of Kate talking about eating cake and playing “Birds,” then you should take the jump.
Via Subterranean, Kate on cake:
And one for the “Birds”:
UPDATE: And to close up Kate’s invasion of NYC, here she is doing “Foundations” on Conan the next night.