Tag Archives: indie

Girl Talk

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When Kate Nash released “Underestimate the Girl,” the single that would precede and define the sound of her third studio album Girl Talk (and coincidentally, preemptively serve as a response to responses to the song itself), the disapproval from some Kate Nash fans – but mostly, I think, casual listeners – came swiftly and without mercy. People were asking questions like “Is this a joke?” and “What happened to the old Kate Nash? :(” Frowny face included.

These people must not have been listening very carefully to her previous album My Best Friend Is You, because if they had been, they would have foreseen Girl Talk as one of the possible outcomes following tracks like “I’ve Got a Secret,” “I Just Love You More,” and, most importantly, “Mansion Song.” (Kate did end up responding fantastically to the criticisms.)

It’s okay to not like Girl Talk. I get it: Some people liked the sweet, relatable indie pop sounds of Made of Bricks and most of My Best Friend Is You. Those albums’ sounds feel like cuddling with your favorite blanket fresh from the dryer. Girl Talk on the other hand is like the old leather jacket from the thrift store with spikes on the shoulders and patches on the body – and maybe it even has that weird thrift store smell too. But what an artist is trying to do with a new sound (even if they’ve clearly explored it before) should not be dismissed because you don’t like it. They still have something to say with their music, and I think it’s always worth it to listen and figure out what that might be.

In the case of Girl Talk, I think it’s Kate Nash casting off the sweet, girl-next-door image and saying a thing or two about her feminist identity. It seems to me like she was tired of standing on the sidelines and wanted to jump into the fray, charting singles be damned. She wanted to make her music something active rather than passive, something to make the listener want to get involved rather than just sit back and enjoy.

I had the pleasure of seeing Kate Nash perform back in May, and I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen any artist connect with their fans on such an intimate level. I’d definitely never seen anyone get so chatty with their audience. To me, she’s even more relatable now than she ever was before. Sure, you can always relate to songs like “Foundations,” “Mouthwash,” and “I Hate Seagulls,” but did you ever really feel like it was reciprocal?

Girl Talk grounds itself in the indie-garage-punk sound of the riot grrrl movement of the early 90’s. Definitely a departure from her previous albums, but no one can accuse Kate Nash of losing any passion in the process. Kate’s got just as much personality and moxie as she did before, maybe even more.

The lyrics are just as catchy (and again – relatable) too. I guarantee you’ll be singing and toe-tapping along to “OMYGOD!” It’s one of my favorites, next to “Rap for Rejection,” a far better qualifier for the category of Feminist Anthem than *ahem* some songs perhaps. It’ll make you angry, but it’ll make you want to do something about it too. “Sister” is incredibly heartfelt and poignant (and a touch angsty) – you can practically feel the pain and heartbreak. “Death Proof” (yes, it’s a nod to the Tarantino film) is a fun and empowering song that’ll make you feel too cool for school in a rebel without a cause sort of way.

If you prefer Kate Nash playing the piano and singing about mouthwash and her distaste for seagulls to Kate Nash to rocking the bass and snarling about your expectations of her, this album may not be for you. But if you suffer from bouts of 90’s grunge/riot grrrl nostalgia, then Girl Talk is the cure. Personally, I love both! Kate’s got great range and I love extreme opposites. It makes it more difficult to pick a favorite album, but is that really a bad thing?

*Disclaimer: While I applaud Kate Nash promoting feminism through music, I don’t support her wearing the bindi in the above music video for “Underestimate the Girl.” I LOVE the song and video otherwise but c’mon, Kate. Cultural appropriation isn’t very punk rock! (Admittedly, I don’t know if she’s said anything about it since releasing the video.)

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I Win!

I have a little confession. I used to watch American Idol–and not just for the bad auditions. I didn’t watch it every season, but when I did, it was with a fair amount of loyalty. I’ve always wanted to be exposed to new music at every opportunity though, so I’m not sorry for it. After all, I never would have discovered Lilly Scott otherwise.

For those who don’t remember (or never watched), Lilly Scott was was a semi-finalist on season 9 of American Idol back in 2010. She was eliminated the night they announced the Top 12. I still remember the look on her face when it came down to her and another girl. They both looked like they were waiting for Lilly’s name to be announced. But they read the other girl’s name instead. Everyone was shocked, including the other girl herself. (Sorry I can’t remember the name, but if I remember correctly, she didn’t even make it to the top five, so I don’t care too much.)

I remember Lilly saying something like her fans weren’t watching the show, which was more of a slight against American Idol than her fans. I think that was the moment where she must have realized that her destiny was for her, not a random TV audience, to decide.

That was the season I stopped watching American Idol. I was outraged for all the right reasons. That season was one of many that would make up the “white guys with guitars” streak. (No, seriously: Google it.) And I’ve never looked back.

I kept checking up to see what became of Lilly Scott though. It turned out she had a band called VARLET. I snatched up their EP (ironically titled) I Win! as soon as I found out about it. I think it may have come out around the same time as when she appeared on American Idol, but considering some of the lyrics, it feels like it could have been written about her American Idol experience.

Consider these lyrics from “Jello Plate”:

Watch out for me

That’s what they say

But do you know who I am?

…No I can’t take these fuckin’ people, yeah

What a goddamn joke

My heart is here wide open

But I don’t wanna get choked

Anymore

I thought for the longest time it WAS about her American Idol experience, but like I said, a little research shows it might not have been, unless she was singing about her audition/Hollywood week. Even then, that would still be pretty punk of her, giving a big (and, soon enough, well-deserved) middle finger to the mainstream music and television industry.

I Win! is very low key and, admittedly, a little indulgent in an almost hipstery kind of way. It sounds like something that would be performed at your local fair trade anti-Starbucks co-op coffee shop. But the minimal instrumentation really allows Lilly Scott’s vocals to shine. She’s the kind of musician who really knows how to use her voice as an instrument, and that’s my favorite kind of musician.

I still think back to her first Idol performance, when she sang one of my favorite Beatles songs, “Fixing A Hole.” It remains one of my favorite Beatles covers ever to this day. Just take a listen and you’ll understand why she was robbed (though she was not eliminated on this song):

You know, now that I think about it, maybe it was better that she didn’t make it into the competition with the other finalists. Onward and upwards, Lilly Scott.

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