A collection of lo-fi, half-baked solo material consisting solely of vocals, acoustic guitar, ukulele, and the occasional programmed loop or synth, Karen O’s Crush Songs feels contrived, even disingenuous. Even in 2006 and 2007, when these 15 songs were reportedly recorded (though that timeline doesn’t seem quite right, given the lyrical content of “King,” a charming ode to Michael Jackson, who died in 2009), contemporary digital technology made it fairly easy to record demos of reasonable sound quality. One or two of these little zygotes of songs would be curious oddities on a more fully fleshed-out album, but en masse they quickly become monotonous. You can almost hear the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer thinking to herself, “I’ll come back to this later,” when she abruptly ends “Day Go By,” while a brief snippet of the Doors’ already short and sweet “Indian Summer” registers more as a warm-up exercise than a cover song. Aside from a brief explosion two-thirds of the way through “Body,” gone is the electric, charismatic frontwoman we’ve come to know: “Love is a fucking bitch,” she predictably laments on “Rapt,” ending the song with a squeak rather than a roar. “Other Side” ostensibly finds O baring her soul, but she doesn’t sound despondent or dejected, just criminally disinterested. There are flashes of brilliance, from the ghostly girl-group-style backing vocals of the aptly titled opening track, “Ooo,” to the astute, somewhat tragic realization of “Body”: “If you love somebody, anybody, there will always be someone else.” Tracks like “Visits” display the makings of something more substantial, but calling “Comes the Night” or “NYC Baby” a wisp of a song would be generous. Boredom isn’t the worst feeling an album can conjure; a sense of wasted opportunity and squandered potential is a wholly graver offense.
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