Album Review: Karen O – “Crush Songs”

Karen O is best known for her work in the art punk band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but has also sang on a number of film scores, and wrote, directed, and starred in the musical Stop the VirginsCrush Songs is Karen’s first solo album, and is comprised of a collection of songs written and recorded in 2006 and 2007 at her NYC apartment. Enjoy.

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I have adored Karen O ever since the first time I heard Fever to Tell. I knew Crush Songs wasn’t going to be Karen at her most bombastic, but the other side of her voice, the gentle, sometimes comforting, sometimes heartbreaking side that we first fell in love with on “Maps,” shines throughout the album. “Rapt,” “Beast,” and “Other Side” showcase Karen’s somber coo that is both eerie and touching. When we do catch a tiny glimpse of her animalistic self, at the zenith of “Body” or on “Native Korean Rock,” the juxtaposition feels explosive.

Most of the pieces on Crush Songs’ are incredibly brief; they feel like quick diary entries that we have sole pleasure to read. Although the majority of the album consists only of Karen’s voice and light guitar, this incredible closeness makes up for any lost elements.

Of the 15 small sketches, my three favorite appear in the middle, one after the other. “Days Gone By” is a moving picture of everything that is love. “Body” has a love-yourself-before-loving-someone-else message that climaxes with primal screams directed at our world’s heinous view of body image. Finally, “King” is beautiful ode to Michael Jackson containing charming lines like, “Is he walking on The Moon? I hope I don’t find out too soon.”

The album’s closer “Singalong” evokes the part of any memorable evening in where everyone’s feeling more than a little drunk, and way more than a little sentimental. A metaphor I find fitting for the entirety of this album. Because Karen’s Crush Songs’ home isn’t an extravagant discotheque, nor is it a sleazy basement party, instead the album’s aura is like the cluttered New York loft in which it was made. And although it’s no massive event, it still feels great to be invited inside.

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