wears the trousers magazine


kate miller-heidke: curiouser (TBC)
July 25, 2009, 10:51 pm
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , , ,

Read the rest of our Australia Week reviews here.
Read our interview with Kate here.

m_lp_katemillerheidke_09

Kate Miller-Heidke
Curiouser •••½
TBC

“I execute the Moonwalk like I stepped in shit.” It’s true: Kate Miller-Heidke can’t dance. She admits it through the medium of a rocky house-track, ‘Can’t Shake It’. Welcome to Curiouser.

Miller-Heidke has attracted a lot of attention in her home country, having been dubbed “one of the most intriguing Australian musicians,” and a lot of that intrigue comes from her backstory: a lauded young opera singer who turned her back on the theatre to focus on her own musical ambitions, it was from an independently recorded and distributed EP that she first gained notoriety. Word soon spread and Curiouser is her second album, following on from her breakthrough debut Little Eve.

Curiouser is a colourful, mixed affair, and Miller-Heidke’s reputation for taking mismatched genres and styles and knitting them together is given good ground. It’s akin to shoving a grabby hand into a lucky dip. And who doesn’t like a lucky dip? Everyone wins – it’s just that not all the prizes are equal. Top of the pile are the tracks that actually do sound distinctive and unique. For example ‘Can’t Shake It’, and album opener ‘The One Thing I Know’, which sounds like the wilful offspring of Jem’s ‘They’ and, perhaps, Ann Lee’s ‘2 Times’, though really it’s the kind of song that will be a different hybrid to everyone.

It’s a credit to her experiments with structure and songwriting that, at some of its best moments, Curiouser plays like a remixed folk-pop album, sounding full of outsider influences and free of restraint. This impression is enforced by the plainer tracks, the ones at the bottom of the pile. These are the ‘originals’ awaiting the same treatment as the others. Yes, even Miller-Heidke it seems is prone to a bit of meandering at times. ‘The Last Day On Earth’ and ‘Our Song’ are sentimental but straightforward, and a bit indistinctive. Of course, not all the extrovert numbers are successes – some can sound quite irksome. For example, ‘I Like You Better When You’re Not Around’ is jaunty piano-based pop of the Scouting For Girls variety.

The binding force of Curiouser is Miller-Heidke’s charm, wit and personality. She knows when a minor operatic flutter of her voice is appropriate and when to keep it reigned in. When telling a story in a song, she doesn’t shy away from delivering a few words in character. The lyrics often throw out little gems of humour and wordplay, and there is clearly some joy taken in subversions: ‘God’s Gift To Women’ (“If you’re God’s gift to women, then God got it wrong”) has a sweet little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it twist at the end of the track.

Being an eccentric female pop-rock singer-songwriter is never going to be an easy ride because the reductionists are always out in force ready to tell you which of the Queens of Quirk you are imitating. But Miller-Heidke’s influences are of such a large and varied scope, no such tag is going to stick. She has a natural pull towards the offbeat. Looking forward from here it should only get more curiouser.

Daniel Clatworthy
Available on import only; www.myspace.com/katemillerheidke

‘Can’t Shake It’

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4 Comments so far
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Love Kate… and good review too, but I have to admit it’s not that great an album. Her real charm’s in the live shows – glad you guys got to experience her firsthand!

Comment by Richaod

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