Fresh, fidgety, fun, and fully showing her age in the best way, 20-year-old Kate Nash sounds on her debut album almost like a marketer's dream of the ideal British pop star for this moment in time.
She shares a hardscrabble philosophical bent with rapper the Streets, employs a pub-fueled brattiness that clearly masks youthful vulnerability a la Arctic Monkeys, explodes with the same sort of "ain't-I-shocking-and-cute" energetic profanity of mutual admirer Lily Allen, and draws on some of the vintage pop and soul influences of Amy Winehouse.
Which is why it's miraculous that "Bricks," already a smash across the pond, where Nash has been officially anointed the next big thing, sounds so individual, exciting, and instantly irresistible.
"Foundations" is a perfectly narrated tale of romantic erosion complete with little slaps of percussion mirroring the lovers' waning sense of respect during a dinner party spat. "Birds" captures the first sweet fumbles of declaring love with a sensual, hazy afternoon vibe. And woe to the boy who broke her heart and became the target of Nash and her posse's derision on two songs whose names can't be printed but detail the pain and anger of wounded pride with equal parts fury and melancholy.
Using her piano, guitar, and rhythm tracks as both weapon and comforter, Nash skips lightly from ultra-contemporary hip-hop grooves to jaunty pop melodies that harken back to Motown and the Fab Four, all while retaining a keen lyrical eye for her own sense of joy, doubt, and power. [Sarah Rodman]