Rarely, and I mean rarely does my dad introduce me to music anymore. I’m sort of over and done with classic rock for the most part, which makes up most of his listening and he, for the most, has introduced me to most of what he listened to in the past. On occasion, a band may reach his ears before mine (i.e. Drive-By Truckers) but with my constant viewing of indie magazines, music websites (Sputnik included) and the such I usually stay ahead of him. For some reason, of which I have no idea he beat me to Katie Melua
. Maybe it’s because I don’t really listen to her style of music very often, or maybe some other reason but the fact of the matter is that I discovered her via his putting her second album Piece By Piece
on his computer desk. Upon hearing Katie’s breathtaking jazz vocals I hit up Google to get the spin on her, and realized she wasn’t as unknown as I thought. Her debut was huge in Europe, selling over a million copies and spawning a couple rather large singles, and her second effort, the very album I am reviewing, is poised to out sell its predecessor.
Katie writes (by herself) one-third of the album and co-writes another, tied for the most songwriting credits (her orchestra’s conductor also writes 4.5 of the tracks) on the album. This fact is impressive because the Georgia (not the state) born singer is barely out of her teens and she manages to write mature, jazzy tunes that still manage to have rather large success. Her voice in itself is a selling point, her voice is relaxing, calm and at points full of just the right amount of emotion, reminiscent of modern jazz heroine, Norah Jones. She can pull off the high notes in Thank You Stars
just as well as she can produce a superb rendition of The Cure’s class Just Like Heaven
(found on the Reese Witherspoon movie of the same name’s soundtrack). The songs she sings also bear resemblance to Norah Jones, but also take elements from many others, such as the late Jeff Buckley on self-written tracks like I Cried For You
The instrumentation on Melua’s second effort is just as good as her vocals. Beautiful string arrangements, light piano, calm drums and jazzy bass are put to their best use on many of the songs on Piece By Piece, including some of the tracks she wrote. The jazz influence is undeniable; first track, Shy Boy even features a bass reminiscent of a tune my school’s jazz band used to play. The session musicians in Melua’s band are quite talented, this includes the singer herself who plays guitar and (a little) piano on the album.
All in all, Piece By Piece is an excellent release, especially for such a young artist. The only flaws it suffers from are that the album gets a little dull and has very little replay value and that it features the occasional clichéd and/or dumb lyric, despite most of the lyrics being quite good. While there isn’t really a terrible song on the album, some aren’t nearly as good as others. Katie does a great job fusing old jazz vocalist ethics with modern pop standards and deserves to be held up at (or near) the level of Norah Jones. Piece By Piece, despite its horribly unoriginal name, is original and very pretty and comes highly recommended for fans of the style of music. I’m glad I stayed awake long enough after watching An Inconvenient Truth to discover this gem.