So I finally got around to listening to the record-breaking crowd-funded fourth release by Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke. (It actually came out March 14th, but I was in the midst of planning my own crowd-funding effort at the time and so it’s taken me a while to be able to actually sit down and enjoy it).
I could lead off by telling you that I’ve discovered the lost Eurythmics album, or that hearing this album reminded me why I love Kate Bush so much, but while those comparisons may be apt, darlings, it doesn’t give this Kate the credit she deserves. While it’s clear that she studied at the Lennox academy of glamour and drama when it comes to the often cinematic scope of her songwriting (just listen to the opening track Offer it Up and tell me you don’t envision feather boas and sequined dresses a la Diva era Annie Lennox), Kate has a voice all her own.
Her voice is her instrument, and it is quite literally all over this album. You’ve never heard anyone quite like Kate Miller-Heidke, and no one I’ve heard since Kate Bush has so impressed me with her vocal courage and willingness to stretch and experiment. She can sing a tender pop ballad or a hip-hop influenced song full of snark and wit with equal appeal. She shows off her opera training on several songs, including the instantly lovable title track – a performance that will blow you away, and have you laughing with delight and amazement.
Then grab your headphones and be prepared to be brought to tears of rapture as Kate makes you believe that she is actually an angel – the layered vocal performance on Rock This Baby to Sleep has to be heard to be believed, and contains the excellent lyric refrain: “If I can’t have what I want, dear God, let me want what I have.” I guarantee you’ll be listening to this track on repeat a few times.
Musically, the album is solid, and while a lot of it is heavily rooted in the very best part of the 1980s, it doesn’t feel retro – rather, the sound is just the foundation that Kate has built her album on. The result is a warm, comfortable feeling of instant recognition – like you’re listening to an old favourite again for the first time.
If Kate Miller-Heidke’s voice is her instrument, then her weapon is her wit. As on her previous albums, she’s included a couple of songs that allow her to demonstrate just how clever and sarcastic she can be. On Drama she takes a bite out of celebrity divas and drama queens in a track that would have sounded right at home on a Sublime album.
This is her first independently produced album, after three albums with Sony Music. Having first discovered her by seeing her live when she opened for Ben Folds Five, my initial reaction to hearing her previous album, Nightflight, was that while I enjoyed the songwriting, I felt it was a bit overproduced – like the record company was trying to make her sound like something she’s not.
If O Vertigo! Is more indicative of the singer’s desired direction for her music, I would say there can only be more great music on the way.
Visit http://katemillerheidke.com/ for more from this wonderful young artist.
And in case you are thinking that I wasn’t going to give you a taste — here, enjoy this very nice intimate stripped down version of the track O Vertigo, showcasing Kate’s amazing vocal prowess in the short promotional film by Jarrad Seng.