Kate Nash's new attitude
Kate Nash confesses to being a little under the weather when she picks up the phone in her London, England, flat, but that’s done little to dampen her enthusiasm for the project at hand. The singer, who initially sounds like someone who should be mainlining NeoCitran, is planning a surprise birthday party for her boyfriend, Ryan Jarman, better known to North American NME subscribers as the singer-guitarist of the U.K. band the Cribs.
Usually, such parties consist of taking the guest of honour out for dinner and leaving the key under the front mat. That way friends and relatives can quietly let themselves in, hide behind the couch, drapes, and houseplants, and then yell “Surprise!” when the almost-always-unsurprised birthday boy or girl arrives back home.
Nash has decided to aim for something a little more memorable.
“It’s going to be like in a ’50s diner in a bowling alley,” the auburn-haired chanteuse says, her excitement level suddenly picking up. “But it’s a private room where you have your own bowling lanes. I’ve invited loads of his friends and they’re coming. We’re going to have a cocktail bar and canapés. We like American ’50s-diner food, and he has his own bowling ball. It’s going to be really fun because we’re both into, I don’t know, the past, I guess.”
As proven by Nash’s fantastically original sophomore album, My Best Friend Is You, surprise parties aren’t the only things that she’s hell-bent on doing differently. Three years ago, critics had the 23-year-old singer slotted in the same section of the United Kingdom record store as upstart pop princesses Lily Allen, Adele, and Duffy. Unfair? Hell, yes, if only because no one that was part of that female British mini-invasion ever came up with a song as smartly devastating as “Foundations”, the relationship-on-the-rocks number that helped push Nash’s 2007 debut, Made of Bricks, to platinum status.
That record cast her as a songwriter with a knack for hyperliterate piano pop, her keenly observational songs having enough edge for Stereogum addicts and yet somehow still accessible enough for Topshop frequent flyers. In some ways that description works for My Best Friend Is You. And at the same time, it couldn’t do a worse job of conveying what Nash has achieved this time out.
One of the best records of the year, My Best Friend Is You is also one of the most wildly eclectic, the songs ping-ponging from wall-of-sound ’60s pop to rooted-in-Olympia riot-grrrl punk to New York post–no-wave to spoken-word tirades. As for the lyrics, Nash comes off as someone who never even got close to being one of the fab kids at school, instantly endearing her to anyone who’s ever looked in the mirror and hated what they saw.
What might be most impressive about My Best Friend Is You, however, is that it got made at all. As excited as she is about what the future holds on this day, it wasn’t that long ago that Kate Nash wondered if she’d had enough of being a pop star.