Review Summary: Great, but sadly not what it could have been.
The 2000s explosion of female indie pop artists has been quite staggering; for every tired electro-pop diva, there always seems to be a more natural, "genuine" diva waiting in the wings. Singers such as Florence Welch and Adele have brought this movement to the forefront, while other artists like Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple have been exceptionally close to hitting the same mark. With all of this said, you might initially expect 25-year-old indie star Kate Nash to be following in an extremely similar vein. To do so, however, would be writing her music off unjustly; 2013's Girl Talk is no different to this sentiment.
While Nash does have many elements similar to those aforementioned indie singers, her approach is a bit different. Instead of taking a folkier or more soulful approach, Nash resurrects 50s/60s rock n' roll and the 90s "riot grrrl" punk movement and gives them a more modern feel. The lyrics are predominantly love-based, but they work within the confines of the music that goes with them. The biggest difference with Nash compared to other acts of her style, however, is how she pulls off her many influences. For instance, "All Talk" gets surprisingly brutal and noisy (think In Utero by Nirvana) as its climactic chorus smashes through the speakers/headphones. The rest of the tune is a psychotic, urgent pop-punk romp that really uses the 50s surf-rock guitar work to great effect. This is a complete contrast to a song such as the all-acoustic ballad "You're So Cool, I'm So Freaky;" while using similar lyrical themes, the music is clearly what sets the song apart. Between the lines of apathy and sarcasm lie a sense of genuine desperation in Nash's voice; the simple guitar work complements this approach beautifully, as it lets Nash to bleed out musically to the listener. This very thing is what makes Girl Talk work; for a large chunk of the album's duration, Nash knows when to pummel the listener or ease things up. Simply put, she usually knows how to please multiple crowds of listeners at different locations of the album. And of course, the traditional clean indie pop shines through with tunes like opener "Part Heart" and the mellow clean-guitar number "Oh."
Unfortunately, the diversity Nash brings does backfire on numerous occasions. While some songwriting inconsistencies are understandable, there are songs on here that don't even work in any conceivable way. "Rap for Rejection" is an extremely weak attempt at a sarcastic rap-rock song, almost sounding like a punk-oriented parody of Avril Lavigne's also-weak "Nobody's Fool," while closing track "Lullaby for an Insomniac" is way too disjointed to enjoy. It's predominately an a cappella song (albeit with no multitracked vocals, just Nash's single voice), but then adds a bunch of random brass instruments at the end with no rhyme or reason. It doesn't sound like Nash being quirky and different, but rather just plain irritating. However, moments like these aren't enough to totally write the album off as bad.
In fact, it's quite the opposite. Girl Talk doesn't quite reach the heights of some of Nash's contemporaries, but it's still a pleasant dose of indie pop with the occasional shot of brilliance to offset any glaring flaws. Plus, the 50s classic rock and 90s punk influences I mentioned earlier are a huge plus. If you're sick of the influx of female singer-songwriter indie artists, this won't change your mind. For a newcomer to modern indie pop, however, this is a great point of entry. Just be ready to skip through some of the songs to get to the really good stuff.