Nataly Dawn – How I Knew Her album review

Listening to Nataly Dawn’s first release How I Knew Her, I couldn’t shake the feeling like I’d heard her before. To an extent, all pretty, young “indie” female singer-songwriters with floaty vocals and softly plucked guitars sound somewhat the same, and it was tough to pinpoint just of whom I was reminded, but even the face on the album cover looked like someone I’d seen before. Then it hit me – she was the female half of the Youtube darlings Pomplamoose, whose videos I remember watching years ago.

Now that Dawn has struck off on her own (though instrumentalist Jack Conte still participated in her Kickstarter-funded endeavor), she seems almost confused. Like a college freshman ready to make it on her own but unsure of just who she wants to be or how she wants to be portrayed, How I Knew Her changes as it goes along, never quite finding a solid thread to tie it all together musically. The result comes off more as feeling out than intentional boundary-pushing.

She starts off “Araceli” with a clash and a bang that falls to a cowboy-paced tune, faint banjo peeking out from behind the lumbering percussion. The title track introduces sad strings to match her sad vocals and a flair of downright southern twang, followed by a tale of two soldiers, “Back to the Barracks,” which sounds like an unplugged, stripped version of a Gogol Bordello song. Her vocal range and ease of octave-scaling is the star of “Long Running Joke,” and she takes a turn for the haunting with the echoy, dark “Counting Down.”

And then, I guess, she got bored. “Please Don’t Scream” grabs at the listener’s attention by pulling in a full band for a bluesy tune that, while actually quite catchy, seems fairly out of step with the album thus far. Perhaps to prove a point, she keeps up the sass with “Still A Believer,” a 1920’s throwback with an old timey piano and horn section (trumpet mute included). By rockabilly-influenced Even Steven you start wondering if you’re still listening to the same album you’d started with.

But with the final two tracks, it’s like her experimentation never happened and we’re back to sorrowful stories and soft-plucked guitar, the closer bringing to mind a vision of Dawn sitting on a stool in a dark basement coffee shop spotlighted by a single overhead bulb,

How I Knew Her, ultimately, sounds like a collection of single tracks thrown on a disc as opposed to a cohesive package (or, at least, an EP with some oddball extras tacked on). It makes sense, I guess, Dawn having made her mark on the world via individual Youtube videos. Hopefully she’s learned something from her experiments in sound and style, and her inevitable second release will be a little more solid.

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