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Nina Nastasia | Dogs (Socialist)
From the elaborate packaging to the music within, Nina Nastasia's debut album is an object of rare beauty. As the low-key typewriter font minimalism is elevated, on the artwork, by the depth of colour beneath, the superficially simple songs are enriched by an empathetic recording (by Steve Albini) and gloriously understated musical arrangements. Nastasia's expressive and flowing voice weaves tales that dip in and out of dreams, finding hope in tragedy and freedom through sleep. Death has rarely sounded so inviting as she sings "I'm awake / I know cause I'm afraid / Of every little thing / It makes me think of you / You're so serene / Underneath the weeds / Parachute me down / To your cold, cold underground / Save me" (Underground) and there's a similarly child-like wonderment found in Judy's in the Sandbox (which seems to have a sinister sub-text, another characteristic of the writing here), and A Dog's Life with it's roller-coaster rides and mischief. With a whiff of decidedly dark humour, Roadkill sees our narrator playing the role of a recently expired animal "...against the ground / Out on the highway layin' down" sequenced before Nobody Knew Her details a teenage casualty dying on the Pacific Highway ("Someone found a blue Ford / Twisted up and glass all around / There was a girl with you / Nobody knew her"). Such an unflinching world-view adds a menacing undercurrent to what is, on the surface, a series of pretty melodies decorated with a predominantly acoustic instrumention. Dogs rewards closer inspection.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001