This album was written without her husband's knowledge, with her hiding in the bathroom so he didn't know what was going on. Eventually, his asking about it got the answer, and he wound up producing this first and only album thus far of hers. And as a personal gushing note, her song "If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin'?" was used at the end of the True Blood episode, "Season of the Witch".
The album title here comes from her personal nickname in high school because she was so pale. That heatseakers chart we talked about a few entries ago placed her at #16 when the album dropped, but the single by the same title never broke our charts. On the UK indi charts, this reached #2. Overall, I think it's probably a lesser-known album to the masses, and even to a lot of indi followers. In otherwords, I'll be interested to see what we're dealing with here. Here's a little opening video for us to get to know Karen a bit (anyone thinking Nicole Kidman while watching?) --
"The Ghost Who Walks," the title track, starts things off. She wasn't kidding - there is some evil behind this track, and the lyrics portray it 100% while the music deceives us. It's got love leading to death and all happening at night. Yet, the music has an up beat and tones that are quite happy. The voice is what melds it all - she's a little muffled, but the effect is just enough to make us question where our heads are supposed to be at here. The video must have a different mix, because I get a totally different feel here:
This next one, "The Truth Is In The Dirt" has more of a guitar rock feel to it, with a regular rhythm to the vocals. I can't get into this for some reason. There might be something appealing there, but it's just not hitting home. I like the bridge a whole lot, but I think that's because it lends something different to the track as a whole. There is, however, a nice dark, beautiful video to accompany this:
"Lunasa" has a much lighter tone to it, and this is where I can understand the critics' comparisons to Loretta Lynn, especially in her recent work. There's even, dare I say, a country-ish sound? There is still a darkness to the lyrics, don't get me wrong, especially in a song that about the setting of winter/night upon us. It's a great use of contrasting things that people won't realize unless they're really listening. The song itself is too beautiful to realize it.
We've gone from tango, to country porch, to Moulin Rouge. "100 Years From Now" has the old 20's feel of a piano in an old bar. It calls back to the old times of love, and the sad times of it all, and how it will not matter later. When you're old, it just doesn't matter how much you loved or lost then. I don't necessarily believe this, but hell, it works for this chick's dark side.
"Stolen Roses" now takes us into a scottish theme. I have to give her credit, she's trying a little of everything! "The thorns on roses cut through my skin. The vultures fly down and peck." I actually love the way this is going. I know it's incredibly morbid, but the imagery in this song is incredible. If you have a chance, look up the lyrics while you're listening; it's just really well-put together poetry.
And we're off to the barn dance! "Cruel Summer." This is no Ace of Base here people. This is a depressing spin around the barn after the worst kind of summer. Love absolutely failed for this story. And she's forced to watch the girl who stole him enjoy the dance. "I mutter a lonesome goodbye." At least the harmonies are uplifting, if you don't listen to what they're singing. Here's an acoustic version that I actually prefer a lot. This is always a good way to see how an artist can bring it without the studio behind them:
There is most definitely heart here that you don't here as much on the album. Just saying.
"Garden" is, yet again, in a whole other direction. It's got the haunting tones that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soundtrack had too often (I caved and saw the movie by the way - incredible!!!), but then comes in with moving drums and voices. The harmonies are a little jaunting though. The lows and highs don't mesh nearly well enough and it's too clear there are two voices, almost making it seem like two people are singing for their own reasons. Maybe I'm a choir snob, but I feel like this arrangement should have been better.
"The Birds They Circle" has a much more traditional song. It's more dark and sinister than it is depressing. The piano line falling in the bridge is absolutely gorgeous though, and I would take that arrangement as an instrumental track any day. The lyrics don't lend much to the track at all - I think we could absolutely get the point without them.
The crooner number of "A Thief At My Door" takes this much more slowly but intensely. This takes us away from the sadness I think a lot of the album has been portraying and places blame on someone for it. There's anger instead, for making her this way.
"The Last Laugh" totally sounds like it's from Jack White and Loretta Lynn's debut album (a great listen if you haven't heard it), but then turns back into something distinctly unique and heartbreaking. "In the ned, we're small grains of sand, running through fingers, blowing out with the wind... So won't you save the last laugh for me?" Maybe there is some hope to her love?
"Mouths To Feed" is our final track, and it's got the darkest ending tone I've ever heard on an album. This is like a combination of those country themes we were hearing and her down in the dirt depression. She's all alone now with her tears and herself. That's it.
- "The Ghost Who Walks" - Spotify, YouTube
- "Lunasa" - Spotify, YouTube
- "Stolen Roses" - Spotify, YouTube
- "The Birds They Circle" - Spotify, YouTube
- "The Last Laugh" - Spotify, YouTube (it's someone's personal video, but it's the only one I could find with the track as recorded)
When I was growing up, I always wanted to make an album where every single song was different from the last, delving in to all genres. I now realize why that's not a great idea without some kind of clear understanding of how to transition from one track to another. I have found that the best ones out there that I've heard are albums that feel whole together, but can be enjoyed separately track-wise as well.
This was an interesting 180 in a lot of way, mostly because I like the tracks by themselves, but not as a compilation. It's too strange of a jump from one to another. The girl has got a voice though, and has now used it in a very interesting and unexpected way. I can see how she fits for True Blood, and I can see how she fits as Jack White's wife, and I can hear her music for what it is - a self-expression that could have only ever come out in this manner.
The one question I am left with is: can I be Jack's next wife so he produces my debut album? What a giving husband..
If you're not too depressed by the end of this, leave some comments on the entry! I'll love yah more than I'm starting to this Karen loves Jack...