- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Kate Nash

Made of Bricks

Geffen

The real-life story of Kate Nash’s rise from a wannabe acting student to the top of England’s pop charts is too much of a fairy tale to be recounted in one of her own songs.

Miss Nash suffered a broken foot in a fall incurred a few days after she was rejected by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

She turned to songwriting during her recuperation and arranged to play a show as soon as she was ambulatory. The rest was a bit of a whirlwind. Miss Nash used the online social network MySpace to cultivate an audience and reaped legions of new fans when the popular recording artist Lily Allen recommended the singer to her own online public.

Miss Nash’s debut, “Made of Bricks,” was released in Britain on Aug. 6 and hit No. 1 on the album charts. Her songs pair simple, bright piano hooks with extraordinary charm. (She possesses the same sort of twee, glib singing style as singer-songwriter Regina Specktor or Leslie Feist.)

Just 20 years old, Miss Nash writes about breaking relationships, pointless nights out drinking with friends and the irritations caused by inconsiderate, self-absorbed boys.

To these quotidian teenage themes, Miss Nash brings a keen observational intelligence and stinging wit. On her hit single, “Foundations,” she adopts a weary, singsong voice to tell the story of an unraveling romance through the events of a single evening during which she is insulted and humiliated by a boyfriend.

The music starts with a simple piano interval with a low-key drum line that grows in intensity as the evening Miss Nash describes begins to run off the rails. She sings, “You said I must eat so many lemons / Because I am so bitter / I said I’d rather be with your friends, mate/ Because they are much fitter.”

The album is all the more impressive for having been thrown together quickly to meet the market for Miss Nash’s growing celebrity.

It owes a lot to producer Paul Epworth, who has worked with Brit-pop hit makers Bloc Party and the Futureheads. The production work is especially welcome on “Pumpkin Soup,” an upbeat, funky track driven by a blend of horns and synth.

Though the song possesses the same banged-out piano chords that characterize Miss Nash’s songwriting, it is lightened by an overlay of exotic percussion and the catchy chorus of, “I just want your kiss.” Of all the songs on the album, it is the most difficult to imagine being performed by her solo at the piano.

More typical is the last track, “Merry Happy,” which tells the story of a girl who learns a lasting lesson from a brief, intense infatuation. Miss Nash’s clunky piano playing adds to its appeal. It is an odd musical paradox: Though her style is as plodding and rhythmic as that of a moderately talented child banging out “Chopsticks” on an out-of-tune upright, the youthful aplomb adds to the sense of fun and play communicated by Miss Nash’s ever-so-slightly put-on cockney accent.

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