Karen O – ‘Crush Songs’

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There’s a line in 80s romcom Sixteen Candles where the father consoles his lovelorn daughter: “If [crushes] were easy they’d call ‘em something else.” It seems a relevant quote when considering Crush Songs, the debut solo LP from Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O. Consisting of post-breakup bedroom recordings from 2006, the album showcases the intimacy of a diary, as O painfully lays herself bare: “Can’t stand still / I’m shaking over you”, she confesses on ‘Day Go By’. There is a confidence implicit in O’s openness regarding the harsh introspection of heartache (“gotta make it right / for yourself” is the reluctant acknowledgement on ‘Bodies’). This is no surprise given the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ oeuvre: O has always seemed remarkably self-assured with her eccentric outfits and nonchalant sprechgesang that channels the New York cool of Lou Reed. This is what ultimately makes Crush Songs underwhelming at times — while the tender vocals and acoustic guitar are often beautifully striking (particularly on fantastically sweet, caustic single ‘Rapt’), you can’t help but feel that O is holding back. With most of the tracks merely two minutes long, the fuzzy sound with shaky falsettos and introductory count-offs, Crush Songs doesn’t sound finished. But then, perhaps that’s the point: that a crush in itself is incomplete and fleeting. O wants her audience to appreciate that pretty state of vulnerability — to help soundtrack their own “love crusade”. And if that’s the aim then, overall, Crush Songs has succeeded; just, it could have done so with more of a punch.

Originally published in tn2 Magazine.

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