Nataly Dawn, one half of American indie pop duo Pomplamoose, is back for another solo adventure on Nonesuch Records with How I Knew Her, following on from her first solo outing in 2009 with Her Earlier Stuff, However, the journey from recording it to releasing it has been a long one.
She started a Kickstarter campaign for the album, well before the likes of Amanda Palmer exposed the site to a larger audience, in the summer of 2011. After raising over $100,000, it was recorded a few months later with a band (including Pomplamoose partner-in-crime Jack Conte, who also helped on production duties).
Since then, the wait has been very long – although, in the wake of My Bloody Valentine‘s two-decade hiatus, a year seems speedy by way of comparison – but no doubt her 2,000-plus backers are breathing a sigh of relief at the news that it’s finally being released. As far the actual music is concerned, How I Knew Her is a collection of fairly straightforward folk-tinged pop tunes. Opening with a crash, bang and wallop of cymbals, Araceli begins to stomp into life and goes through several key changes in the space of two minutes. It’s a quirky, offbeat introduction to an album that’s full of similarly kooky and surprising moments. The title track starts from nothing and turns into a surprisingly menacing something. On first listen, it’s entirely unexpected but a genuine thrill.
This has eccentricities and curve balls that some will find difficult to love. Arguably, this is an LP that badly needs those qualities as they provide a much needed injection of character and personality to songs that come across as filler and possibly enough to make you reach for the skip button. The most exciting thing about Counting Down is an intriguingly ghostly coda but the rest of it is a little pedestrian when compared to some of the album’s high points.
It is up to Dawn herself to save these tracks with both her way with words and engrossing vocal delivery. Underneath the flourishes of Long Running Joke’s lavish arrangements there’s talk of pearly gates, monsters and people in suits in cahoots. “Sure you were cute and full of tricks/And a whole lot better than a guinea pig” is one of several stand out lines on the jaunty and bluesy Please Don’t Scream. The best of the lot is saved until the very end; Why Did You Marry, a stripped-back piano ballad with some truly brilliant lyrics, is followed by I Just Wanted You To Get Old, a quietly emotive and sad finish that’s little short of beautiful.
Anyone who donated money to help make How I Knew Her a reality should surely feel that their riches has been wisely spent. Whilst How I Knew Her is lacking a little in inventiveness at times, and some of its oddities will rub up people the wrong way but there are still plenty of great moments scattered throughout to make it worth your attention.