Singer-songwriter Kate Nash made a splash in her native U.K. in 2007 when she was barely 20 years old with Made Of Bricks, which her label rushed to release to capitalize on her hit debut single, “Foundations.” The album was a collection of pleasant pop songs, often anchored by Nash on piano, but was the work of a young artist just finding her voice. Aside from a couple of singles, it wasn’t too memorable, though it went platinum in her home country and landed her a Brit award (though it didn’t attract much notice in the States). Its 2010 successor, My Best Friend Is You, kept the hooks but favored a much more pronounced rock sound.
The new self-released, fan-financed Girl Talk continues down that path, moving further away from hooks toward more aggressive, moody rock. Songs like “Sister,” “All Talk,” and “Cherry Pickin” are basically punk songs, miles away from the bright-eyed pop of Made Of Bricks. Album opener “Part Heart” sets the tone, with Nash breathily singing just above a whisper over a similarly restrained three-note bassline, drums, and light guitar feedback. The guitar kicks in about halfway through, and the song slowly builds in intensity, as Nash’s voice grows more agitated and dismissive. (She begins every line with “And it doesn’t matter…”) “Fri-end?,” which follows, sounds more like her previous work, but it’s in the minority (along with “O My God!” and “Conventional Girl”). Messy, occasionally noisy, and attitude-heavy rock dominates Girl Talk, from the rootsy, heavily reverbed “Death Proof” to the shouting four-chord punk of “Cherry Pickin.”
Nash says she has “absolutely poured my heart, soul, brain, guts, and mind into this record” following a “significantly important and challenging year,” and Girl Talk reflects that intensity. But it’s also missing something. Nash has a way with melodies, and Girl Talk has some nice vocal melodies in particular, but musically it could use some of the hooks she used to write so well. Girl Talk may be the album she’s always wanted to make, but fans of her older material may be left wanting.