Strange Fascination is the debut album from Natascha Sohl, a young Londoner who has been traipsing round the live circuit for a while now. A new release from a new artist, it should at least have freshness on its side but that’s not the case. This is flat, flimsy pop-by-numbers.
It isn’t all bad. Forthcoming single Give It All Away is a fairly decent pop track. Despite its whiny lyrics it has just enough of a hook to stop it immediately drifting from your memory. But for the most part this album is composed of songs even the ex-Spice Girls would have rejected from their solo efforts for being too bland and formulaic. It’s a shame. Sohl’s voice is pleasant enough, but it doesn’t have the blow-you-away quality needed to rescue these tracks from mediocrity.
Even after an initial listening you can already garner an accurate idea of the creative thinking behind this Ben Jones-produced debut: Fine With Me is the guitar-heavy rocky number; Forgive Me is the angsty slow-paced ballad. And so it goes. Strange Fascination checks all the expected boxes but it’s just too transparent, it’s trying too hard.
Somebody needs to tell Sohl that repeatedly going on about “emotional equality” and “pre-midlife trouble” does not make her Alanis Morissette (one of her cited influences), though she does a credible vocal impression of the psychobabble prone songstress on several tracks, most obviously on Madness and Remember Me. But that’s all it is, Alanis-lite; there’s more creative spark in a Morissette album title then on the whole of Strange Fascination.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. After all she’s got an OK voice, the album features some solid pop moments and the success of Daniel Bedingfield‘s little sister has shown that there’s a definite market for quirky but attractive blonde popsters called Natas(c)ha. Pop music doesn’t need to be innovative to entertain but at the very least it needs to have heart, or at least a pulse.
Strange Fascination has the curious effect of sounding both far too polished and not nearly polished enough. Despite the slick production, there’s an amateurish feel to a lot of the song writing. Sohl’s verbose but clichéd lyrics frequently seem to have been shoehorned into musical structures that don’t really suit them, the songs feel forced and false. Though several tracks begin promisingly enough they soon settle into the same old patterns, they utilise the same old tricks and techniques.
Sohl is credited as the main writer for all the tracks on the album (though the small print lists a fair few co-writers) so ultimately the blame has to fall at her feet. On final number Wishful Thinking, she concludes with her thoughts on “fame seeking wannabes.” Now didn’t Alanis have a song about irony?