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Katie Melua - The House

Katie Melua, The House

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THINK you know Katie Melua? Think again… Britain’s most successful female singer has shaken things up for her fourth album, The House, which marks her most ambitious undertaking yet.

Comprised of 12 tracks, the LP comes complete with creative collaborations between Katie and Guy Chambers, Polly Scattergood and William Orbit.

There are also some far more upbeat, pop moments than usually associated with the singer, as well as a darker more edgy approach to the songwriting.

Even the album opener, which unfolds in what could best be described as “characteristically” slow burning Melua style, she drops the unexpectedly dark lyric: “I want to kill you with a kiss.”

That same sense of vampish playfulness is evident on the bluesy God On Drums, Devil On The Bass… which finds Melua in utterly seductive form and stretching her vocals across some moody instrumentation. It’s an intoxicating change of pace.

Likewise, Twisted – another of the album’s highlights – which weaves hypnotic drums and synths around a set of vocals that are more Kate Bush or Bat For Lashes than Katie Melua.

It’s these creative flourishes that catch you off guard and make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about this particular performer. And you should applaud the bravery involved, for while not every experiment comes off, this is – on the whole – a successful reinvention that still provides early fans with plenty to enjoy.

Melua has long been considered the master of the slow-burning, beautifully composed ballad and there are several of those moments interspersed between the more adventurous leaps.

Album opener I’d Love To Kill You is stripped down and intimate, albeit dark lyrically, in just the way Melua fans like her, while the Polly Scattergood co-written Red Balloons is similarly beautiful in its heartfelt simplicity.

Title track, The House, ends things on a note of warm familiarity… slow-building towards a lush, orchestral arrangement that’s vaguely cinematic. It’s a great way to finish, especially given the way the track concludes (Orbit’s effect, again, wins through).

But in between, there’s plenty more to savour too. Former single The Flood is a proper William Orbit epic that is to Melua what Ray of Light became to Madonna. It’s enriching, expansive and disarming.

The big show-style moments such as A Happy Place and A Moment of Madness stretch Melua vocally but probably rate as two of the least successful moments.

But Tiny Alien is a moment of breezy off-kilter folk that’s really fun, the bluegrass The One I Love Is Gone (originally performed by Bill Munro) smoulders smokily, and Plague of Love is an orchestral pop blast.

All things considered, this is a terrific fourth offering from Melua that deserves to cement her status as Britain’s premier female songstress.

Read our interview with Katie Melua

Download picks: The Flood, Twisted, The House, Plague of Love, God on Drums, Devil on The Bass, Tiny Alien, Red Balloons

Track listing:

  1. I’d Love To Kill You
  2. The Flood
  3. A Happy Place
  4. A Moment of Madness
  5. Red Balloons
  6. Tiny Alien
  7. No Fear of Heights
  8. The One I Love Is Gone
  9. Plague of Love
  10. God on Drums, Devil On The Bass
  11. Twisted
  12. The House