Release Date: Feb 12, 2013
Record label: Nonesuch
A heady and quirky mix of Regina Spektor, Leslie Feist, and Joni Mitchell, the second album from Nataly Dawn, the female half of heady and quirky indie pop duo Pomplamoose, is held together by the French- and Belgium-raised, Stanford-educated, American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist's gift for gab, unique phrasing, and sophisticated musicality. Largely acoustic yet peppered with swampy slide guitar, brooding strings, and gospel-tinged organ, Dawn plays fast and loose with genres while maintaining a foundation that owes as much to jazz and blues as it does to folk traditions. Less reliant on the indie pop architecture of Pomplamoose, there is a tantalizing and soulful undercurrent that runs through How I Knew Her, which owes more than a cursory nod to its multi-talented backing players, who provide album highlights like the seductive, sing-songy "Araceli," the expansive and truly mesmerizing title cut, and the ghostly "Long Running Joke," with the kind of tasteful yet confident propulsion that can only come from well-seasoned session musicians, who in this case include Ryan Lerman (Ben Folds), David Piltch (Bill Frisell), Louis Cole (Pomplamoose), and Matt Chamberlain (Fiona Apple).
Nataly Dawn, one half of American indie pop duo Pomplamoose, is back for another solo adventure on Nonesuch Records with How I Knew Her, following on from her first solo outing in 2009 with Her Earlier Stuff, However, the journey from recording it to releasing it has been a long one. She started a Kickstarter campaign for the album, well before the likes of Amanda Palmer exposed the site to a larger audience, in the summer of 2011. After raising over $100,000, it was recorded a few months later with a band (including Pomplamoose partner-in-crime Jack Conte, who also helped on production duties).
Tumbling through my letterbox a couple of weeks ago came a DVD screener of the new TV show The Following ('ooh hey look at me, I’m Charlie Brooker!') from the Kevins Williamson and Bacon. The premise is, well, mental: bad horror movie trope James Purefoy breaks out of prison to carry on with some cartoonish mutilation process that Jimmy McNulty-lite Bacon has to halt. Only here’s the twist: James has been using his time in prison to develop a network of like-minded serial Lecters to do his hilarious butchering for him using these social network things they have now.
Nataly Dawn’s voice is a force to be reckoned with. At times, it can be deep, rich, and sultry – like that of a younger, more innocent Chan Marshall – or eclectic and jarring in a way that evokes Regina Spektor. Her solo debut, How I Knew Her, paints a picture of a young woman discovering her own talents, and taking a great amount of joy in doing so.
Every once in a while, an artist emerges who is so twee and charming, that the music just makes a seasoned listener want to puke. The tropes of innocence and experience, of recalling other albums and creating new distinctive sounds comes off as a paint-by-numbers exercise more than a real human expression. Such is the case of Nataly Dawn. Sure, she’s going to sell a lot of records.
Pomplamoose musician delivers a seductive and singular solo album. John Aizlewood 2013 Barry Manilow’s most recent album, 15 Minutes, was a concept detailing the rise, fall and redemption of a pop star. Perhaps the most surreal moment of a surreal outing was Letter From a Fan/So Heavy, So High, a guitar-squall-laden duet with Nataly Dawn playing the role of the pen-wielding obsessive.
Nataly Dawn’s voice is girlishly mature, if that’s possible: wide-eyed with a cute affect and an implicit understanding that maybe both of those are untenable in the long run. She’s parlayed it into Internet fame as half of Pomplamoose, and “How I Knew Her” knows not to mess with the formula too much; she’s even plunked her Pomplamoose partner Jack Conte down in the producer’s seat. But unlike their previous overdubbed recordings, the album has the nicely ramshackle clomp of a live band, and Dawn loosens up accordingly.