Less-is-more new single from Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer and Oscar nominee
Not many artists have their break-out year after more than a decade in the spotlight. So far 2014 has been shaping up to be pretty great for Karen O - the singer from New York art rockers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Following widescreen acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for the gorgeous ‘The Moon Song’ - Karen O's contribution to the Spike Jonze film ‘Her’ - the singer/songwriter announced plans to release Crush Songs - her debut solo album outside of the band.
Monday (28 July) saw the premiere of ’Rapt,’ the disarming first single from her upcoming record on Lauren Laverne’s BBC 6 Music radio show. The singer has also released an accompanying music video - shot by husband and director Barnaby Clay - showing the singer submerged underwater in a red dress.
Singer Karen O before her performance at the 2014 Oscars
From the opening, ‘Rapt’ is a very different creature from the track that earned her the Oscar nod six months ago. Where ‘The Moon Song’ gently glistens with O’s soft, lilting vocals and a similarly delicate guitar, Rapt slowly burns with the same lo-fi feel reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ earlier work on albums Fever To Tell and Show Your Bones.
There’s a vintage crackle and buzz that sounds like the dust being blown off of an old eight-track recorder, followed by a slow count in from the singer that gives way to O’s unmistakable vocal. Lyrically, the song scathingly holds romance under a microscope as it touches on feelings of uncertainty towards the wrong lover - with the desperate, hushed chorus asking ‘Do I really need another habit like you?’
It's O's heartfelt delivery that makes the song work - not many singers could carry off lines like 'Off went the switch/ Love is soft/ Love's a fucking bitch' without sounding clumsy and juvenile. Coming from O, however, the lyric comes across as honest and frustrated as anything she's released before.
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While the song itself barely scratches the two minute mark, fans of O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will undoubtedly swoon over this first single. Sitting neatly alongside the more delicate tracks from her back catalogue (think ‘Porcelain’ or ‘Skeletons’ from the group’s first and third albums respectively, rather than the yearning grandeur of YYYs' fan favourite 'Maps'), 'Rapt' cements her reputation as indie’s premiere spokeswoman for the lovelorn and downhearted. The video for 'Rapt' has just launched and you can watch it here.
While the new album doesn’t land until September, the singer posted a handwritten note on her Twitter page explaining its concept, which said: “When I was 27 I crushed a lot. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever fall in love again. These songs were written and recorded in private around this time. They are the soundtrack to what was an ever continuing love crusade. I hope they keep you company on yours.”
The album - recorded between 2006 and 2007 and described as a ‘collection of lo-fi, bedroom recordings’ - is due for release on September 9, 2014 on the Strokes’ frontman and fellow New Yorker Julian Casablancas’ label, Cult Records.
According to NME, Casablancas said he is ‘so excited, lucky and proud to be involved with such a classic album,’ before adding: “I just wanna listen to it all day. Karen is an all-time great.”
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