Katie Melua – The House
2010, Dramatico Records
Katie Melua is one of the largest selling artists in the UK for the 21st century, capturing hearts and minds all over the world with her albums Call Off The Search, Piece By Piece and Pictures. Under the tutelage of composer/musician Mike Batt, Melua found her voice and a sound that is both distinctive original and commercially appealing. After three albums and seven years, however, it was time for Melua to branch out on her own and explore the avenues of her art. The resulting album, produced by the legendary William Orbit, is The House. This is Melua’s most original and dramatic album to date, delivering on an unerring pop sensibility with the sort of musical quirks and originality that can turn a very good artist into an icon.
The House opens with “I’d Love To Kill You”, perhaps one of the most anachronistically sensual songs you’re likely to hear. Melua mixes images of violence and sexuality in a disturbing monologue that will unnerve or titillate you depending on your disposition. The stark, simple arrangement serves only to empower the message and paints a picture of a love that borders on insanity. “The Flood” is dark, mysterious and beautiful. There’s an almost spiritual theme revealed in Melua’s parallel between the washing away of a great flood and the releasing of bonds on the human spirit as the song moves between a sorrowful dirge and an uplifting new age/pop dance beat. “A Happy Place” keeps essentially the same rhythm and melodic structure as “The Flood”. The theme here is about humanity’s constant yearning to find a happy place and is therefore subjectively a complement to “The Flood”, sharing elements of theme, melody and structure.
“A Moment Of Madness” finds Melua exploring the cabaret style familiar to fans of Sarah Slean. Melua injects a gorgeous dramatic sensibility into a suggestive art house tune with a distinct baroque feel. Melua explores the juxtaposition of hope and heartbreak as seen through shared experience in a tune that sounds like something John Lennon may have penned where he still alive and working today. “Tiny Alien” finds Melua communicating with a baby in utero, wondering at who it will become, what it feels and thinks. It’s an amazing bit of songwriting, highly personal and yet universal in its theme. “No Dear Of Heights” is a confident love song that revels in faith and certainty that a relationship is meant to last. Melua’s performance shows a conviction that is compelling. “The One I Love Is Gone” is bluesy and forlorn but sophisticated. Katie Melua delivers a true wow moment here with a vocal performance that is starkly beautiful and thoroughly in the moment.
“Plague Of Love” explores the pleasure and pain of unrequited love in a compact and breezy but significant pop song. This is brilliant songwriting, blending masterful lyrics with the sort of smart, angular pop arrangement that’s outside the box enough to be noticed but accessible enough to garner the attention of radio programmers, licensers and fans. “God On The Drums, Devil On The Bass” hits the spiritual realm again, using Judeo-Christian imagery as a sort of parallel of yang and yin, and placing human behavior in between. The song is entertaining with enough of a mid-tempo dance beat to perhaps crack the club scene with the right remix. Melua’s vocals here are oddly sensual. Melua closes out with “Twisted”, a solid pop entry, and “The House”, a pensive, dark internal conversation set to music. This quietest moment evokes Melua’s best vocal performance on the album, including a chilling high note that will ring in your mind well after the last notes fade.
Katie Melua has come a long way since Call Off The Search, expanding upon her folk and pop roots into a truly artistic pastiche of pop, rock and singer-songwriter styles. Melua embodies the eclectic spirit of such artists as Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Milla Jovovich, while writing intelligent and coherent pop that is atypically accessible. It isn’t a stretch to say that Melua has one of the most intriguing voices in pop music today, finding its way into the nooks and crannies of your soul. The House is Melua’s finest work to date, a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Katie Melua at www.katiemelua.com or www.myspace.com/katiemelua. The House is available from Amazon.com as a CD, LP or Download. The album is also available from iTunes.