One of Europe’s top-selling female artists, England-based, Georgia-born Katie Melua is virtually unheard of anywhere else. Considering the tacky fluff that often dominates continental pop, evidenced each year by the appalling parade of the Eurovision song contest, this might not seem like the greatest loss. But The House—an assured, mature collaboration with producer William Orbit—proves to be a work of a different caliber, an often great breakthrough that, with any luck, will push her star higher on this side of the Atlantic.
Vocalist Katie Melua's 2010 album The House is an atmospheric, romantic, and sometimes eerie album of arty adult alternative pop. While longtime producer Mike Batt is on board here, journeyman electronic producer William Orbit takes the main production helm. The result is Melua's most mature album to date and one that will certainly draw well-earned comparisons to such art pop icons as Kate Bush and Tori Amos.
Katie Melua always had an air of The Stepford Wives about her. Inoffensive, house trained, porcelain pretty, scandal free. Her three polite albums sailed through the night scooping up squillions of sales despite nobody actually remembering any of the tunes. The only thing witnesses recalled when asked were Melua’s chucklesome lyrics—prime offenders being “If you were a piece of wood / I’d nail you to the floor” and “You set me free, as if you’d taken me / Halfway up the Hindu Kush”.
"I'd love to kill you by a stream/ Where no one can hear you scream", is perhaps not a lyric you'd associate with Katie Melua, a woman most famous for a song about bicycles. Yet her fourth album opens with her attempt at a murder ballad, albeit one with a 12A rating. It's not the only surprise; William Orbit came out of semi-retirement to produce, Guy Chambers and Rick Nowels help with the co-writes and manager (and Wombles creator) Mike Batt is reduced to a single writing credit on the execrable God On Drums, Devil On the Bass.
The House is largely a success – those boxes, again, have been ticked. Mike Diver 2010 On the final track of 2007’s Pictures, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s In My Secret Life, Katie Melua sang of missing a loved one. Three years on, she opens this fourth album with I’d Love to Kill You: “I’d love to kill you as you eat / The pleasure would taste so sweet”.