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Katie Melua: Secret Symphony
True originality isn’t easy to come by in the music business these days. We’ve witnessed more than a fair share of artists drowning in a sea of likewise imitators. This makes us appreciate the odd exceptions who, year after year, manage to produce better music with each record that they release. Katie Melua’s new album Secret Symphony presents what any fan base would wish for in a new release; the familiar style they have come to love with a fresh twist.
Steady, relaxed vocals and soothing bluesy music are what shaped Melua’s previous albums, yet Secret Symphony introduces bolder elements that are foreign to her trademark style. The usual slow guitar and piano melodies have been infused with new sounds, while Melua has included covers that give insight into her own inspirations.
‘Moonshine’ lifts the record’s tempo with a finger-snapping melody and low pitched guitar base after ‘The Bit I Don’t Get’, whose clever rhymes and meaningful lyrics make it the best song on the album: “The bit that I don't get, it's how it changed so fast/How it changed from we will always be together, to it will never last”.
The only song written by Melua on her own, except for her two collaborations with established British producer Mike Batt, is ‘Forgetting All My Troubles’ whose positive tones stand out against the measured ambience of the album.
Though the album contains some covers, you hardly wince, as Melua more than makes them her own. The best of them is the cover of the 1923 song ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’, a song covered by countless artists before. It adds a unique edge to the album, especially when listening closely to the cynical lyrics.
Like in previous album The House, Melua cements her position as the go-to artist when it comes to languid, romantic songs - a reputation that, over the years, has attracted as much scorn as it has attracted adoration. Overall, Secret Symphony marks a welcome return of the style that put Melua on the map. More than just regurgitating her old sound though, she has taken a leap into exploring and expanding it.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
‘The Bit I Don’t Get’, ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’, ‘Heartstrings’