Smart girl builds a house ‘Made of Bricks’

Sticks

Kara Nesvig

Kate Nash is quintessentially British: adorably round cheeks, a sweet girlish face, quirky, colorful fashion sense, eyes twinkling with an inner mirth and, of course, a tendency to be described as “cheeky.” She’s also got a passel of fabulous “mates” including fellow Brit-pop tartlet Lily Allen and trainwreck soul phenom Amy Winehouse; did we mention The Purple One, the artist currently known as Prince, is a rabid Nash fan? It’s no wonder the endearing import is generating her fair share of buzz.

She’s the newest “girl with a piano” to hit the music scene. The whole genre has become a bit tedious since its recent explosion of artists like Regina Spektor and Sara Bareilles, to name but a few.

20-year-old Kate Nash comes with MTV’s stamp of approval and its constant touting of her musical repertoire during their marathons of “America’s Next Top Model.” But Nash has quite the arsenal of smart, blunt, sometimes-explicit tunes to help differentiate herself from the Reginas and Fionas of the world, and comes armed with a sharp debut album, “Made of Bricks,” to hollow out her place in the “singing chic” niche.

Most of Nash’s songs sound as if she’s lifted them straight from the pages of her cherished diary. She vents about her relationships, and rhapsodizes about the current object of her affection just like a whip-smart, culturally sophisticated teenager would. She sings about getting drunk off wine with her girlfriends, debates the complications of love vs. sex, and describes a few crushing blows to her love life in the same candy-sweet, lilting voice set to a bouncing, uncomplicated piano accompaniment. Nash is often unsure of what she wants just like every other 20-year-old female. She moons, she swoons, she rages, she vents; her hurricane of emotions runs the gamut, often in the context of one song. Where Fiona Apple is undeniably dark and gloomy, and Regina Spektor veers often toward the absurd and unintelligible, Nash keeps her ivory-tickling bright and gleeful, even when lashing out at her trouble-causing boyfriend with, “Why you bein’ a d—head for? Stop bein’ a d—head!”

Because Nash is so young, she often relies on her aforementioned cheekiness a bit too much. She’s best heard in small doses, the way one would listen to a bawdy comedian, because she tends to resort to the immature to prove her point: “Stop givin’ me s—/ I know that you’re full of it,” she spouts on the oh-so-cleverly titled “S— Song.” Given free rein to run her mouth whatever way she likes, her name-calling gets a bit obnoxious.

Her lyrics, too, frequently leave much to be desired. For example, a snippet from “Mouthwash”: “I use mouthwash/ and sometimes I floss/ I’ve got a family/ and I drink cups of tea.” This is nothing that won’t be improved with experience and age; for the most part, Nash impresses rather than underwhelms.

MTV chose wisely while featuring Nash as their hot new artist of the week, showcasing her strongest songs in lieu of the inevitable first-album missteps. Standouts include “Foundations,” the musical retelling of a couple’s constant bickering, sure to be heard every half hour at H&Ms everywhere; “Merry Happy,” a double-edged gem that features the lyrics “Don’t tell me that you didn’t try and check out my bum ’cause I know that you did!” and “We Get On,” a sweet-but-not-sappy expression of hopeful crushing that sounds just like a rose-pink, gilded Valentine … until Nash, in a rejected fury, rips that Valentine to pieces!

Just like any other 20-year-old let loose in the big, big world, Nash makes a few small mistakes, stumbling slightly in her first major undertaking. “Nicest Thing” leans toward the boring and blasé while “Mariella” is at best mediocre. And while it’s undeniable that Kate Nash has some growing up and maturing to do, the bottom line is that when she’s good, she’s bloody good indeed.