Three years ago, a cocky, straight-talking girl made her footprint on the music industry with the in-your-face single “Foundations.” After two years of touring and a year off, Kate Nash returns to the scene with My Best Friend is You. Since Amy Winehouse’s rise to stardom, there has been a steady resurgence of retro-soul music from across the pond, most notably that of Adele, Lily Allen, and Florence Welch. Nash borrows from all three artists on her second disc, which fuses old school guitars and catchy melodies. The formula is a winning one on several songs, but on others it seems forced. Nash is an impeccably good singer, as her Cockney accent lends to her puckish charm and her witty lyrics frequently sparkle with originality. Sadly, though, her new album doesn’t show the side of Nash that her fans had grown to love with her debut. The songs work well as stand-alones, but the album lacks coherency, bouncing around frenetically between surf-punk tracks and slow love songs, dragging her lovely vocals behind them.
As a singer and a lyricist, Nash is talented beyond her years. The 22-year-old seems to have experienced her fair share of heartbreak, as well. On her first album she chose to take the high road, but on My Best Friend she flounders between heartbreak and defiance, painting a muddled picture of the girl audiences once thought to be unbreakable. Maybe that’s a result of growing up. After all, she penned her first album when she was just a teenager. Whether drowning in sorrow or trash talking an ex, the old Nash still shines through with her savage wit and realism in some tunes. On the half spoken, half sung “Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt,” Nash waxes poetically about how she thinks more people should have mental health problems because thinking is “one of the most stressful things I’ve ever come across.” The song is an intimate conversation with the songstress. She remains relatable, as she talks about wanting to travel, a desire to learn new words, and a fear of rivers. This song showcases the best of Nash: a cheeky and brilliant songstress.
On the catchy first single, “Do-Wah-Doo,” Nash revisits a childhood rivalry with a girl who is the apple of her classmates’ eyes. All horns and “ba-ba-bas,” it is towering and filled with drama. As she resigns herself to the idea that she’ll “just read a book instead, I don’t care if we’re just friends, I can hang out with myself…” you can’t help but remember that she is still so very young, so heartbreak is new and hurtful. Other songs fall flat on their face lyrically. On “I’ve Got a Secret,” Nash definitely has a secret and that’s all she can seem to talk about. Seriously, all she says is, “I’ve got a secret, and I can’t tell you,” over and over. It’s a poor excuse for a song, as is “Mansion Song,” a rap (confusing on its own) in which Nash seems to be proving that she knows the “F—word” and isn’t afraid to use it as much as she wants. It’s this conflicting, “I’m still a child, wait, no I’m not,” mentality that sends the album off the rails.
The problem with My Best Friend lies in the coherency and interest level. It’s not that every album has to tell a story, but it has to flow and can’t sound like a rehash of other musicians’ work. I don’t want to point any fingers, but the snarling guitar on “Kiss That Grrrl” sounds suspiciously like the riff on indie band Rilo Kiley’s “Silver Lining.” Her vocals on some of the songs (“Pickpocket” and “You Were So Far Away”) sound like they have been edited to the point that they could easily be mistaken for those by Regina Spektor. Other times, Nash sounds like Kelly Clarkson, M.I.A., Bruce Springsteen, and the B-52s. She is clearly confused and has lost the person she used to be. It’s never a good thing when you find yourself distracted when listening to an album, as I so frequently did while reviewing My Best Friend. It’s also a bad sign that this is how I’m choosing to end my review: If you want to listen to a thrilling, refreshing, and altogether amazing retro-soul British female album, turn to the new Marina and the Diamonds’ The Family Jewels. If you really feel the urge to listen to Nash, give her debut, Made of Bricks, another spin. 4 out of 10.