Karen O‘s band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, always seemed an ode to the liberal arts. Comprised of members from Oberlin and Bard College, their songs displayed unusual, slightly crooked intelligence and a left field brilliance that epitomizes what those schools are all about. If anyone ever wondered why go to a liberal arts college or study the liberal arts, you could just hand them a Yeah Yeah Yeahs album and it’d be clear.
Karen O’s latest album graces the world with that same spirit. Crush Songs comes with a special blend of originality and intelligence. Karen O can undoubtedly access the best studios, but she preferred a lo-fi, homemade approach on this album, and if you’re into that stuff, it works superbly. It’s not non-conforming for the sake of being different, but you get the sense that this is the kind of sound Karen O digs, and she wants to create it even if she’s well beyond the point where she’s technologically confined to create it.
The songs have unusual brevity. Fifteen songs and only twenty-five minutes, the tracks don’t even average two minutes. Again, this quirky in-and-out approach seems unforced — it coheres with the amateurish sonic quality and her direct lyric style. The whole album just comes from this bizarre, original place. Karen O seems unaware of musical conventions — like that songs rarely end before the two-minute mark — and somehow manages to approach the musical medium without any impregnated notions of what music is.
Karen O is a special artist and she created a really pretty album. Her melodies can really impress, particularly on the closing track, “Singalong.” Her lyrics can teach, like in “Body” where she sings, “If you love somebody, anybody, there will always be someone else, so make it right for yourself.” Crush Songs comes from a different place, rarely feels forced or trying, and has a charm to it. Not everyone will like this album, but those who do will really love it. It’s the kind of album some people will hold really close to their heart, reminding them about what they love about the world.