A canny hybrid of Regina Spektor and Kate Nash.
Lucy Davies 2009-06-22
Australian actress and children's TV presenter- turned-singer-songwriter Lenka has written an album which is a canny hybrid of Regina Spektor and Kate Nash. Trading on her reputation with the kids, Lenka's singing persona is child-like and naïve, accompanied by animated videos and adverts for craft workshops on her MySpace page. And this tweeness carries through to the music itself.
Opening track The Show features very simple chopsticks style piano opening out into a showtime celebration of catchiness, complete with trombones and choir. It's become the most played song in Vietnam this year and featured on numerous commercials and TV shows. It's easy to see its universal innocent appeal.
The more sassy Bring Me Down is introduced by a choir of Lenkas and features a badly whistled interlude, not unlike Noah and the Whale's In Five Years Time.
The album's lyrics concentrate on Lenka being a bemused young lady in today's fast moving world. But don't expect any great revelations. Just references to the, ''big bad world'', ''the sun is hot in the sky'' and such profundities as ''I will never be you, I will always be me'' or ''You turn my frown upside down''.
Overall the instrumentation and arrangement is lovely, sympathetic and subtle, like the pizzicato undercurrent on Don't Let me Fall, and the spacious Trouble is a Friend. Unfortunately there are also many 'oom-chah' piano parts that ground the songs in cliché, such as the awful Anything I'm Not.
But all's not lost. The moment which lifts Lenka up from being a cute girly singer to an actual artist comes with Like A Song. So beautiful, this is the kind of song that slows down the listener's breathing; it's drumless and expansive. There's an expectant stillness, with vibes, synthetic strings and oboe that wrap around her voice, singing a French-styled melody. This shows what is possible when she drops the rock drummer and obvious, repeated piano.
Lenka is certainly not short on radio friendliness. Listening to the entire album may be rather like eating a pound of lemon bonbons in one sitting, yet there's plenty of promise beyond the sweetness.