Album Review: Karen O – Crush Songs

Karen O makes a sterling effort on her debut album as a solo act, but doesn’t quite nail it


We are used to seeing Karen Orzolek (usually known as Karen O) belting out the anthemic chorus of ‘Gold Lion’ or the weird yet wonderful ‘Sacrilege’ in her role as the lead singer in the American band, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. As one of my favourite front women in music today (it’s Karen over Hayley Williams any day of the week), I was excited to hear her solo effort but simultaneously concerned that she wouldn’t shine as much without the creative input of Zinner and Chase.

Other than having a name unappealing to anyone over the age of 15, Crush Songs begins well. ‘Ooo’ is quite short, you might think, holding the unsatisfying property of ending almost before it has begun. Unfortunately, this theme becomes a constant in the album. ‘Rapt’ is beautiful and really shows off Orzolek’s songwriting skill. This song makes it clear why she opted for the lo-fi style which is present in the record, as it suits the theme of the weariness of love. This is followed by ‘Visits’, the closest this album comes to sounding like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs – not because it is particularly similar sonically, but perhaps the most memorable and interesting.

The rest of the album seems to slip by leaving little impression – at a modest running time of 25:10, if you blink you might miss it. It’s rare for a song to run over two minutes in length; not necessarily a bad thing but you just don’t have time to get into a song before it’s suddenly over. The songs which are longer tend to be the worse ones, like ‘Beast’ which is not terrible but quite whingey and irritating. There are also songs like ‘NYC Baby’ which add little depth to the record and you wonder why Orzolek put them there.

There are moments of lyrical brilliance on this album, and it’s lovely to see Orzolek reunited with former YYY collaborator, Imaad Wasif. But the album is obscenely short and although it’s listenable, I was absolutely desperate to listen to ‘Heads Will Roll’ after about five listens through. Orzolek makes a sterling effort but doesn’t quite nail it.

Listen to: ‘Rapt’, ‘Visits’, ‘Body’, ‘Native Korean Rock’.

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