In-Like with ‘Crush Songs’
Adam Ramos | Thursday, September 25, 2014
Although most of us don’t have time/talent/energy/resources to produce an entire album about them, we all fall victim to the harmless crush from time to time. Karen Lee Orzolek, or Karen O as her stage name goes, attempts to capture the essence of those curious little infatuations in her recently released album, appropriately named “Crush Songs.” O, lead singer of ingenious indie pop group Yeah Yeah Yeahs, will forever be known in the music world for her eccentric performances, off-the-wall fashion and all around creativity. Comprised of 15 short tracks, “Crush Songs” were all written between 2006 and 2010, a period of “crushing” in O’s life.
Most of the tracks on “Crush Songs” are simple, with O delicately singing accompanied by simple guitar melodies and the occasional drum loop. Though simplicity is not inherently bad in music — especially with such a gifted singer — most of “Crush Songs” feels a bit under developed, almost half-heartedly done. Fans excited to hear the fire and passion signature of Yeah Yeah Yeahs may be bit disappointed with “Crush Songs.” The overwhelming sentiment of love and its fleeting nature is constant throughout much of the album, however nothing really sticks as a meaningful takeaway.
Hazy, muffled singing is pretty constant throughout the entire album. Most tracks are presented with very simple, mildly poetic lyrics. The playful nature of the album can be taking as refreshing, however the novelty is short-lived. A perfect example is O’s cover of The Doors’ classic “Indian Summer,” which only hints at what could have been an interesting cover, if only better established.
Don’t be too upset, loyal Karen O fans, there are definitely some gems hidden amongst the overwhelming okay album. “Rapt,” released earlier this summer off the album, can certainly stand on its own up against much of O’s other artistic work. Echoing the delightfully heartwarming lyric, “Do I really need another habit like you,” “Rapt” perfectly captures the essence of a crush. The simplicity and almost flippant production of “Crush Songs” works just right in “Rapt.” For those of you like me who fell in love with O’s “Moon Song,” and the rest of Spike Jonzes’ “Her” for that matter, “Rapt” will be delightfully reminiscent. Unfortunately, it is almost as if the rest of the album is just an imperfect attempt at recreating what works so well in “Rapt.”
Speaking of Jonze, the filmmaker recently gave his long time friend O a big surprise. While helping to produce a one-act play at the New York Metropolitan Opera House, Jonze put together an impromptu music video for “Crush Songs” opening track “Ooo.” Proof of O and Jonze’s undeniable compatibility, the video perfectly captures the airy playfulness intrinsic in “Crush Songs.” Actress Elle Fanning gracefully strolls through the empty Met, stopping for the occasional twirl and giggle, and O’s “Ooo” saturates the background.
The video does one more thing. While watching the short video, I realized where “Crush Songs” could work. Though it’s quite a stretch to say “Crush Songs” can stand on its own a full fledge album, it certainly works to set a mood. There is a reason for this too: O has yet to shake off the “soundtrack mantra,” which is very understandable as O only recently finished her work in producing the soundtrack for the film “Where the Wild Things Are” and also recently provided material the soundtrack of “Her.” Almost all O’s work outside of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs has been with soundtracks, and “Crush Songs” can be taken as a residual effect.