Karen O is the frontwoman for indie rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who released their fourth record, 'Sacrilege', last year. 'Crush Songs' is a record of solo recordings she has been quietly and secretly collecting since 2006, based on the time when she "crushed a lot". The record is being released on Cult records, the label run by Strokes' frontman Julian Casablancas, and promises a sound unheard in recent Yeah Yeah Yeahs' output -- "Rapt", the lead single, is a sparse acoustic slow jam that suggests the often understated days of 'Show Your Bones' .
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This is a collection of home-recorded ditties created by Yeah Yeah Yeah Karen O around 2006/07, which comes extravagantly packaged with a 12"x12" 36-page booklet full of lyrics and drawings. The timeframe places it slap bang in the middle of the YYYs' recorded output, between the relatively understated 'Show Your Bones' and the dancey 'It's Blitz'. Presumably she just saw them as demos at the time, hence their taking so long to surface - I get the impression maybe Julian Casablancas talked her into putting them out.
Interestingly there's a run-out groove on the second-to-last song on the vinyl, meaning you have to move your needle manually to access the final "bonus" track, kind of like when you had to fast-forward your CD by 10 minutes to access a half-arsed studio outtake on lots of '90s indie rock CDs. Yeah, not annoying at all.
The songs themselves are very nice, anyway. This is totally different from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, just stripped back singer-songwriter four-track recordings with tentatively plucked guitars and sweetly mumbled vocals, aesthetically not a million miles away from Kimya Dawson but with much less wit and much more romantic wistfulness. It sounds like Cat Power aping J Mascis's ramshackle early solo acoustic efforts like 'Martin & Me', back before he really got the hang of the solo thing. Thankfully Karen's voice is beautiful and she has a real instinct for a simple, memorable tune, so while you won't find a great deal of variety on here, it's a really warm and human record, one which quietly revels in its imperfections and allows them to shine through as strengths. I was ready for this to be terrible but it's not, it's actually quite good.
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