Release Date: May 5, 2015
Record label: Apollo
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
On Nadine Shah’s debut long-player, 2013’s Love You Dum And Mad, she summoned typhoons of claustrophobic sound, sandblasting ears with coarse squalls of anguish, trauma, and her signature smog-gulletted vox. It’s a record of deep complexity, and even now, forensic musicologists are trying to pick through the psych-rubble strewn throughout. It was complicated and painful, but ultimately fascinating.
Hard to place yet so familiar, the twitchy, goth angst of Nadine Shah is generally described as PJ Harvey mixed with Nick Cave, but that ignores her sly wit, coming off as if Morrissey were crossed with an ice queen and Bauhaus played in support. All that said, she's a unique voice as well, coming out of Whitburn, South Tyneside and still a master of the rustic American twang, just updated with a more modern twitch and punch. This sophomore effort is a less grand and wonderfully reserved alternative to her debut album, 2013's Love Your Dum and Mad.
Partway through her second album, Nadine Shah murmurs, half to herself: “My mother would be so ashamed of me if I didn’t act in a classy kind of way. ” It’s a gorgeous moment, private yet open, and all the more perfect because classy is exactly what these passion-drenched yet poised songs are – even the ones that sneer at pretentious men, excoriating their shallow ways. Fool bristles at one who woos by delivering “regurgitated lines from St Nick Cave”, barbed guitar slashing across limber bass notes; Washed Up is coolly taunting of another, reaching the glum conclusion that there’s no point waiting for “the one”.
The recent spectacle of BBC 6Music Festival on Tyneside saw the most exciting collection of artists to converge on the North East of England in recent memory. The weekend was a triumph, with unforgettable sets from the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Django Django and Mogwai among the main highlights. As it turned out, though, the artist who really stole the show was someone from just down the coast in Whitburn who wasn’t even on the original line-up.
Nadine Shah’s problem is not really a problem yet. At the moment, the fact that she imparts her songs with such stark believability doesn’t matter, as it’s easy enough to believe that her subject matter comes from first hand experience. But if she does take her songwriting into realms away from biographical adventure, she’s going to run into the PJ Harvey effect, when people come up in and remark how well she looks for being a supercentenarian veteran of the Galliopli campaign.
Nadine Shah‘s appearance back in 2012 with her Aching Bones EP quickly saw her attract significant attention – partly due to her geographical background (she grew up in Whitburn, a small town in South Tyneside but comes from a family that can claim roots in both Pakistan and Norway) but mainly because of her striking, distinctive vocals and powerful songs that arrived with little fanfare or warning. Her debut album Love Your Dum And Mad saw her quickly compared to the likes of PJ Harvey and Nick Cave (the former especially being an understandable, if sometimes slightly too easy, point of reference). On follow up album Fast Food she draws from a similar musical palette, but the intervening years have helped her sound bolder and more confident (not that she’s ever been particularly lacking in that department).
Nadine Shah has a dark, plum-tart voice, with a generous vibrato that trembles on "warble"; in a recent Quietus profile, even her own mother mistook her for a man (Drenge was playing on BBC, and her mother thought it was her, to Shah’s amusement). When her voice enters, the atmosphere changes. She can make almost anything sound remarkable, or at least interesting, and her sharp, incisive rock songs shimmer with a ripe theatricality every time she opens her mouth.
Pretty portents of sorrow fill “Kathryn Calder,” the self-titled album by the singer who is best known as the modest team player supplying harmony vocals in the New Pornographers. Her own albums — this is the third and most transparent — reveal grander structures and a singular perspective ….