Pomplamoose musician delivers a seductive and singular solo album.
John Aizlewood 2013
Barry Manilow’s most recent album, 15 Minutes, was a concept detailing the rise, fall and redemption of a pop star. Perhaps the most surreal moment of a surreal outing was Letter From a Fan/So Heavy, So High, a guitar-squall-laden duet with Nataly Dawn playing the role of the pen-wielding obsessive.
As an entry to the mainstream from one hitherto best known for being half of ever-droll indie darlings Pomplamoose, it was quite some curveball. And Dawn more than held her own against Manilow.
Career suitably kick-started, she sought funds for her first proper solo album from the Kickstarter website. In what became a modern-day fairy tale, she asked for $20,000, but received over $100,000 and was in a position to hand the finished product to her new label.
She’s spent her money carefully. How I Knew Her veers between sparse and angular to lavish, hence the lovely string section, used to best effect on the outstanding Why Did You Marry. Elsewhere, the title track’s apocalyptic ending echoes The Beatles’ A Day in the Life. Overall it’s the sound of a woman brimming with ideas as she seizes her moment.
She’s a graduate of the mildly quirky school. Indeed, Araceli bounces like an especially jumpy Tigger, but mercifully she’s not beholden to quirk and there’s a shark-eyed steel to her lyrics. She nods to Mary Margaret O’Hara’s way with oscillation, Kate Havnevik’s knack for painting an enigmatic picture and Regina Spektor’s yen for a winning melody.
There’s darkness to the title track, which details her grandmother’s life (“I bet you’d like some answers”), while Please Don’t Scream’s jaunty disposition hides its startlingly vicious tone. Even Steven is how The Stray Cats might have sounded with a knowing Californian woman at their helm.
Cultdom seems assured at the very least, and How I Knew Her is less an album to yield all its myriad charms instantly, more one to slow-drip its way to adoration. Dawn has the intelligence to sway the cognoscenti, the wide-eyed charm to seduce the masses, and an other-worldliness that ensures that, for all those she embraces, nobody sounds quite like her.