Brooklyn duo Kay Kasparhauser and Lulu Landolfi, better known as The Prettiots, enjoy defying expectations. While there’s not a great deal to their sound – built mainly around ukulele and bass guitar – their twee, folky compositions provide a striking contrast to the biting lyrics. It’s certainly easy to see why Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis signed them to his label soon after hearing their lo-fi musings.
Début album Funs Cool often sounds like a darker, cruder version of Lily Allen – something demonstrated aptly by Suicide Hotline, arguably the centerpiece of the record. It begins rather tamely with a sweetly plucked melody providing the song’s backbone, before Kasparhauser’s lyrics turn it completely upside down. “On a scale of one to Plath I’m like a four/my head’s not in the oven but I can’t get off the floor.”
It’s a brilliant line that captures perfectly the tone of the record. The contrast between the quirky, upbeat sound and the lyrics becomes even more pronounced on the song’s infectious chorus, where Kasparhauser sings: “I’m not fine but I’ll be okay/I probably won’t kill myself today/I’m not okay, but I guess I’ll be fine/please don’t call the suicide hotline.” It’s a perfect example of what The Prettiots can do when they hit their stride.
Boys (That I Dated In High School) also manages to get the balance right, with Kasparhauser’s brutally honest lyrics giving an edge to an otherwise fairly straightforward melody. True to its self-explanatory title, the song sees Kasparhauser list her various boyfriends during High School, although they don’t exactly get glowing endorsements as she picks apart their various faults or reasons for the failure of the relationships.
“I remember Rocky/he wouldn’t dump his girlfriend/he said she gave such good head/and since her grandpa was dead/he couldn’t dump her just yet,” she sings, delivering the song’s best take with a nonchalance that only adds to the pay-off. Anyways… is also a highlight, with Kasparhauser’s ukulele doing most of the work as she demonstrates a fragility that is often hidden elsewhere behind the witty tone.
While the album is certainly not a universal success – it does eventually get a bit repetitive as the chirpy melodies start to become indistinguishable – even the weaker moments have something quite enchanting about them. Hope Yr Happy’s call-and-response chorus is quite addictive and rescues what is essentially a standard tale about a relationship falling apart, while Move To L.A. is more of the same until it bursts into a thrilling conclusion.
As the album’s artwork suggests, The Prettiots are not ones to shy away from the subject of sex and this is a running theme throughout the record. Dreamboy details Kasparhauser’s experiences of being single in New York, as she pines for the perfect man with her customary tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“We don’t have to fall in love/we could just make out and stuff/not that I want a one night stand/I’m actually totally not about that”).
Yet despite the lyrics providing more comical punchlines than your average Adam Sandler film, the lack of variation means Funs Cool comes up just short of being a great début. Even their cover of Misfits’ Skulls sounds a bit tame when given the ukulele treatment, while closer 10/10 Would Chill Again is just pointless textspeak. That said, there is enough evidence here to suggest The Prettiots have a bright future if they can just match their bold lyrics with bolder musicianship.