Sometimes you listen to a musician and just wonder, ‘Why wasn’t this artist more successful?’. I’ve wondered that time and again about English singer-songwriter, Kate Nash. Maybe my only answer to that question is that she arrived on the music scene at an unfortunate time; her debut album, Made of Bricks, was released in 2007, right in the middle of the upsurge of British songstresses. I feel as if she got caught in the crowd, because Nash didn’t have the powerhouse vocals of Amy Winehouse or Adele, nor did she have the raspy voice of Duffy or Corrinne Bailey Rae’s smooth charm.
Though the album did well in the UK, it never quite made it on the airwaves in the States. Still, I was quite hooked when my friend, Joe, introduced me to Made of Bricks. I found that what made Nash unique wasn’t her voice- though she’s got a nice one, she does nothing stunning vocally- but her witty, quirky, hilariously funny lyrics, and her catchy songs. It was her songs- her extremely-well written, relatable songs- that kept me coming back to her album for repeated listens.
Foundations was the lead single on the album, and I’m still surprised it didn’t get more attention than it did. The fast-paced song features Nash quickly singing the verses over a simplistic piano melody, before fading into the memorable chorus (“My finger tips are holding onto the cracks in our foundation/And I know that I should let go/But I can’t/And every time we fight I know it’s not right/Every time that you’re upset and I smile/I know I should forget, but I can’t”). The song is incredibly fun and upbeat and despite not garnering any mainstream success for Nash, it’s still one of her best.
Despite its crass title, Dickhead is one of the best songs on the album. The track opens with snapping and Nash quietly strumming on her guitar before singing the opening line, “What you being a dickhead for? Stop being a dickhead.” The hilarity of the song is Nash’s straight, obviously annoyed delivery, and of course, the fact that everyone knows a “dickhead” (despite the genital reference, I’ll be fair and say the term could be applied to an asshole of either gender). I’ve dated plenty of guys whom I just wanted to sing this song to, and I thank Ms. Nash for at least giving me the perfect anthem for those men.
Birds is a sweet song, but naturally, still features some of Nash’s quirky directness. The pretty acoustic guitar and Nash’s warm delivery set up what on the surface sounds like a love song, but a closer look at the lyrics expose that this love song is less about flowery sentiments and more of an awkward- albeit, realistic- declaration of love (“Right, birds can fly so high/And they can shit on your head/Yeah, they can almost fly into your eye/And make you feel so scared/But when you look at them/And you see that they are beautiful/That’s how I feel about you”). Again, I love Nash’s writing style- she manages to put a refreshingly honest spin on life and do so in such a charming, funny way.
Honestly, there are so many standout songs on this album. Pumpkin Song features a bit of an old school/Motown feel thanks to the beat and the horns in the background, and the song contains more insanely fun lyrics (“I’m not in love/I just want to be touched/I just want your kiss, boy!/I just want your kiss!”). Merry Happy was the fourth single from the album, but I think it would’ve been a better pick for the first single, actually. The cheery music (mostly composed of the same piano chords being pounded and drums) goes along perfectly with the tongue-in-cheek lyrics in the bridge (“Dancing at discos/Eating cheese on toast/Yeah, you make me merry make me very very happy/But you obviously, you didn’t want to stick around/So I learnt from you”) but my favourite part of the song (which also became an anthem of sorts for me while I was single) is the refrain, “I could be alone, yeah, I could watch a sunset on my own, I could be alone.” There’s nothing I love more than strong women, and I love that Nash wrote a whole song (and really, a whole album), about being one.
Nicest Thing is the only ballad on the album, and it’s one of those tracks that you instantly know will break your heart, right from the opening violins. And once you make it to the lyrics, you know that this is, indeed, a heartbreaking song, thanks to the emotional lyrics (“Basically, I wish that you loved me/I wish that you needed me/I wish that you knew when I said two sugars/Actually I meant three/I wish that without me you’d be spending the rest of your nights awake/I wish that without me you couldn’t eat/I wish I was the last thing on your mind before you went to sleep”). Nash’s delivery is raw and broken down; she sounds every bit as discarded and rejected as the lyrics portray her to be. The subject of unrequited love has been tackled time and time again, but I remember feeling this exact way before and listening to these lyrics and feeling as though Nash had stolen every thought from my head and written them into this song.
Though you may have never heard of Kate Nash, you’re doing yourself a big disservice by not owning Made of Bricks already. She’s truly a talented artist, and her songs are so great that even if you’ve never known a dickhead or been a victim of unrequited love, you’ll still find yourself smiling along and enjoying the beautiful songs she’s written. It’s a shame that she didn’t gain the same success as her contemporaries, but that’s not stopping any of us from enjoying her talent all the same.
6. We Get On
8. Shit Song
9. Pumpkin Soup
10. Skeleton Song
11. Nicest Thing
12. Merry Happy