Crush Songs Review

artist: Karen O date: 09/16/2014 category: compact discs
Karen O: Crush Songs
Released: September 5, 2014
Genre: Indie Rock, Lo-fi
Label: Cult
Number Of Tracks: 15
Karen O's first solo album is a kind of ethereal audio trip that takes you through a weird ordeal of emotional longing and pain in short snippets of songs, mostly under 2 minutes each.
 Sound: 7
 Lyrics: 8
 Overall Impression: 6
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overall: 7
Crush Songs Featured review by: UG Team, on september 16, 2014
3 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: Karen O is known for being the frontwoman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which initially broke out almost immediately when they began opening for the White Stripes and the Strokes in 2001. Since that time the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have released four full length albums and multiple EPs. Their last album, "Mosquito," was released in 2013. Their sound, which Karen O adopts in large part for her solo material, is lo-fi artsy punk music reminiscent of the Velvet Underground and Siouxsie and the Banshees but with a more modern approach. Karen O teams up with Imaad Wasif on guitar for this release. "Crush Songs" contains fifteen tracks with a total runtime of approximately 25 minutes. The album is almost exclusively layered and/or processed vocals by Karen O sang over minimalist guitar provided by Imaad Wasif. The songs included on the album were recorded between 2006 and 2010.

The album opens up with the track "Ooo" with a simple guitar track and some reverb-laden vocals, a second vocal track mixed low in the background humming along to the guitar. "Rapt" is the second track and has the guitar following the vocal melody, which is a nice effect for the track and gives a lot more emphasis to the vocals. The vocal tracks are at least doubled or a really good chorus effect is being used on the vocals. "Visits" uses some type of computer generated percussion and lo-fi style vocals. "Beast" has an effect-drenched guitar, a cleaner tone but with a lot of delay and chorus type effects, and some more straightforward vocals except for brief moments of multi-tracking on the vocals. "Comes the Night" uses multiple vocal tracks and a very simple melody on guitar. "NYC Baby" uses a pretty serious chorus effect and Karen O's voice is accompanied by another simple guitar part. "Otherside" is more of the same stuff, but with the "lo-fi" more prominently on display. There is also some light percussion used on "Otherside," possibly a maraca. "So Far" stands out for having a more interesting guitar part, even in the minimal form it takes and the squelch noises included from fingers sliding along the frets/guitar strings. "Day Go by" is possibly one of the songs that sound the most like what I think of as a fully thought out/written song, while many of the other songs do sound like roughly recorded song ideas.

"Body" sounds like the vocals were recorded with Karen O's mouth too close to the mic or the gain up a notch too high. The guitar melody is fairly simplistic, as the rest of the album, but there is another vocal track with (Karen O?) clicking her tongue, then some sleigh bells come in, and Karen O singing a wordless melody, which is followed by some straight up vocal noise, then it pulls back down to a similar sound to the opening for the outro. "King" has the guitar part being played with a capo so aggressive the guitar almost sounds like a ukulele. The vocal part is very simply done, with a second vocal track singing a haunting wordless melody sounding almost like a theremin. "Indian Summer" is actually a cover of the Doors song by the same name, which I just happened to know because I recognized the track. "Sunset Sun" uses some heavily processed vocals with a simple melody on guitar. "Native Korean Rock" starts out with "growing up in these modern times ain't easy" but with some type of oddly-voiced acoustic stringed instrument with an Asian lute sound. "Singalong" starts out with some whistling and multiple vocal tracks, including (I think) male vocals and I believe this song to legitimately include a ukulele or otherwise a very aggressively capo'd guitar. // 7

Lyrics: Karen O's voice is mostly haunting and ethereal, but sometimes is sharp and other times heavily processed and layered on this release. Sometimes her vocals are backed up by uncredited backing vocalists. Her vocals are always standard Karen O fare, however. If you appreciate her vocals in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or any of the many side projects and guest vocals she has provided, then this will be the high point of this release for you. As a sample of the lyrics from the album, which are (next to the actual vocals) the main focus of the album, here are some from the opening track, "Ooo:" "Don't tell me that they're all the same/ cause even the sound of his name/ carries me over their reach/ back to some golden beach/ where only he remains/ you planted your eyes on my feet/ you told me to dig my heels deep/ the night wore the rain/ on her window pane/ and drifted us to sleep." // 8

Overall Impression: The album really comes off a certain type of way that is almost in the neighborhood of some of Daniel Johnston's more sophisticated releases, but with more conventional lyrics. It actually seems that most of the songs are truly "crush songs" about pining over a love interest, which is a cool concept for an album, but being such a popular subject for songwriters that it can feel stale pretty quick, also. I guess as I try to digest how I feel about this album it comes down to this - I think it is an unpopular decision to have any type of critical opinion about Karen O these days, but this album is lazy. I'm not saying that this shouldn't have been released, but it should have been released as a free download, or like a specialty EP. It isn't unpleasant to listen to, but if it was recorded by someone other than Karen O then it would be ignored by pretty much everybody. If you are, however, a fan of Karen O or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then it is an opportunity to listen to some very personal songwriting from Karen O ...even though it's a little dated with the newest songs on the album written approximately 4 years ago. // 6

- Brandon East (c) 2014

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