Words About Music
Karen O “Crush Songs”
When I think Karen O, I think the screech-voiced energetic vocalist for seminal New York trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Hers is a voice I could absolutely pick out in a lineup. She’s an incredibly versatile singer who’s got the chops for a post-hardcore group just as much as she does for an indie folk group. Just compare “Date with the Night” with “Maps,” two songs that appear on the same record. In 2013, Yeah Yeah Yeahs dropped their fourth album, “Mosquito,” and it kind of just came and went. I haven’t bothered to listen to that album since it came out and I haven’t had any strong desire to. I still think the band’s first three albums rule. Karen has also dabbled in solo work, mostly for Spike Jonze movies. She helped score the soundtrack to his 2009 film “Where the Wild Things Are” and she wrote the Oscar-nominated “The Moon Song” for his 2013 masterpiece “Her.” Perhaps this inspired her to release her collection of lo-fi songs she recorded between 2006 and 2010: “Crush Songs.” These songs are unlike anything Karen has done with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but when it comes to the endless trove of lo-fi music you can find on Bandcamp, this just doesn’t hold up.
I have no problem with the lo-fi recording method. In fact, I even like it. From Daniel Johnston to Teen Suicide to Wavves to Michael Cera (seriously), there are several artists that go about the method in interesting and intimate ways. Perhaps the problems with “Crush Songs” lie in its context. This is Karen O. Yeah Yeah Yeahs has been a mildly famous world-renowned band for a very long time. It’s not that this album shouldn’t exist, it’s that it’s not the earth-shattering confessional masterpiece that it maybe could have been. The lo-fi method doesn’t do Karen any favors, and it’s not like she can’t afford an expensive studio.
The songs on this album are short, but that’s both a blessing and a curse. Mostly a curse. Karen doesn’t give these songs time to breathe and live. She seems so focused on recording a bonafide lo-fi album that she forgot to make songs that stick out, save for a few. It’s aesthetically pleasing, sure, but it ends up being nothing more than background music. It’s not even background music for a long time! The album clocks in at almost 26 minutes, and there are very few outstanding moments in those 26 minutes.
Karen O is an excellent singer and songwriter. She’s capable of great solo work, but “Crush Songs” rarely provides anything that reassures me of that. The album is good because I like Karen’s voice and there’s interesting sounds and lyrics on here. But it’s such a consistent record that it ends up boring me, which sucks. My expectations weren’t spectacularly high for this album, but I would’ve liked something a bit better than a run-of-the-mill lo-fi album.
SCORE – 5.3
FAVORITE TRACKS – Ooo, Rapt, Day Go By, Body, King, Sunset Sun