So, maybe I’ve been wrong all along; perhaps I’ve been living in denial. For years I’ve been writing that I don’t really ‘do’ singer / songwriter type music. I did somewhat reluctantly concede some time ago however, that I actually liked Lizzyspit; then a while later, Charlotte Eriksson. Then along came Maz Totterdell.
And now there’s NEHEDAR!
OK – let’s just say that female singer / songwriters (some at least) are worth spending some time on. I still don’t ‘do’ male singer / songwriter stuff though!
NEHEDAR is in fact the solo project of Brooklyn based Emilia Cataldo. Together with ‘Little Pioneer’ (Craig Levy) they play just about every instrument on this fourteen track album, although Mike Shobe plays trumpet on one track.
Now, I wasn’t to know this when I pressed the ‘play’ button. All I knew was the ‘singer / songwriter,’ tag, and fully expecting a standard sort of twee, acoustic guitar and sweetly harmonised vocals relating the tale of a love lost, I almost grudgingly gave it a listen –and then bought into it by the time the first chorus of track one, ‘The Interrogation’ came around. Yes, the vocals are dulcet right enough, but there’s more of a gentle electro feel about this than simply being an ‘acoustic’ track. And then the chorus – if ever there was a more contrary juxtaposition than such an innocent and angelic voice singing, “There’s so much confusion, there is so much fucking noise …” than I’ve got to hear it!
Right – ‘High Tide’ now has my attention. The title track follows. Again, it has a bit of an electro feel with lots of dark ‘clanks’ and little synthy runs flowing beneath Emilia’s vocal which ranges from warm and mellow to high pitch.
There are of course some slower, more downbeat tracks to be heard, but in general they are filled out with other instruments, like a cello and piano section on ‘Distracted,’ which is atmospheric at the same time as being a bit ‘lounge’ music. Really pleasant though.
‘Tinkerbell’ seems to be story of a girl lacking confidence, though I’m still that shallow punk who doesn’t pay too much to lyrics generally so I may be way off here! Regardless, this one again is simply captivating, but succeeds in being so without submerging itself in a bath of melancholy.
‘Take It Apart’ has a bit of a Hispanic feel, with the trumpet sounding like it’s drifted up from the Mexican border. As you’d imagine, this one’s quicker of pace and totally infectious. ‘The Song No One Hears’ maintains the tempo, but I have to say to less effect than its predecessor in that it’s not quite so ‘instant.’ It does however highlight the variation of styles employed on the album.
‘Eggshells’ rocks along in a sort of acoustic fashion, with lovely harmonies backing up the principal vocals and little electro injections here and there breaking things up before the album takes on a more sober turn with ‘Intro.’ A sort of distorted sounding piano arpeggio mirrors Emilia’s distorted and more hushed voice. It sounds almost ‘choral’ in parts, but I like it because it dares to be different.
‘Dig Deep (Parts 1 & 2)’sees the opening one and three-quarter minutes with Emilia singing accompanied only by a tambourine. The link to Part 2 is as if from a clockwork musical box from which a ballerina emerges. The song then fills out to become more dramatic, again with occasional Hispanic hints, I’d say. ‘Unlove Song’ is another of the slower-paced songs that somehow still retains my interest, in no small part due to the integration of synth effects giving a certain depth and originality.
If NEHEDAR were to ever release a single here in UK, then ‘Baby I’m Falling’ is the one! In an album of generally accessible songs, this one comes with the added prefix of ‘commercially.’ It has a gentle but bouncy refrain. The hook is strong and the harmonies get right inside your heard.
‘Ocean’ is unfortunately one of the types of song that I (in my previously ‘unenlightened’ life) would have stereotypically associated with the ‘singer / songwriter’ genre. What was it I said ……’ a standard sort of twee, acoustic guitar and sweetly harmonised vocals relating the tale of a love lost?’
‘Opening’ picks up the tempo and is a really ‘chipper’ little sing-a-long with little Country hues to add colour and vibrancy. Closing track ‘Count Down The Days’ is very much the sound of a German beer garden – very ‘oom-pah-pah,’ and in fact could quite conceivably have been lifted from a ‘Mary Poppins’ type movie – albeit that particular film was set in London as opposed to Munich. (You’ll know where I’m coming from when you hear it!)
So there you have it – I still reserve the right to dislike ‘singer / songwriter’ material, but it’s artists like NEHEDAR that are making my prejudices more and more difficult to substantiate!
(Available now through the Bandcamp page via Facebook)(8/10)