Having earned an early reputation for that uniquely rich, soulful voice; Nadine Shah released her debut album Love Your Dum and Mad to critical acclaim in 2013. A stint on the road with Depeche Mode followed whilst opening for Bat for Lashes and playing live at Vivienne Westwood’s Red Label London Fashion Week show provided notable highlights on an extensive tour. Created with trusted collaborator and producer Ben Hillier, the excellent follow-up Fast Food is out on 6 April via Apollo / R&S Records.
Born from a fervent two-month writing session, Fast Food exists on a knife-edge – every bit as dramatic as we’ve come to expect from Nadine but with a sharpened eye for all things hook laden; retaining a brooding grandeur in its movements. Recorded live at Ben’s studio The Pool in South London, the album features contributions from guitarist Nick Webb and bassist Pete Jobson (of I Am Kloot fame).
Building on the bruised honesty and charm of its predecessor, Fast Food rings with the confidence of an artist completing their most coherent musical chapter to date. “The last album took so long to make that by the time it came out it didn’t feel like it was a very clear representation of where I was musically, but this time it’s different,” Nadine explains. Fast Food is a more concentrated effort: it is the sound of Nadine Shah as she is now, stepping out from behind the piano and growing with immeasurable confidence.
Watch the official album trailer here:
Nadine admits that Fast Food is a reflection upon short lived, intense, complicated relationships. “I suppose it’s a coming of age album of sorts lyrically. Rejecting the romanticised idea of ‘perfect’ love and maturing in respects to relationships and accepting partners pasts”.
With love comes heartbreak: “But it isn’t begging for your sympathy, it doesn’t wallow in self-pity” adds Nadine. “It’s unapologetic and, I hope, empowering.”
This sentiment is truly reflected in early album number “Matador”, which Nadine explains is about “the most beautiful parts of a person.” The song arrives on the flickers of a quietly ticking metronome and the unmistakably brooding swells of a gently paced guitar; the distorted cracks sounding as though they’re caught in suspended animation. Nadine’s slow drawn out vocals stride with confidence around their subject matter.
“Matador” isn’t the only track on the album filled with real warmth. “Nothing Else To Do” is the sound of Fast Food drawing a breath; it’s unassuming – almost otherworldly – guitar strings providing a wonderfully unstructured respite from the gripping intensity of its surroundings. On the surface it demands less, making it an unlikely focal point, but its one cyclic refrain – taken from a line in a forgotten TV movie – commands your attention more with every repetition. “I wanted to repeat the lyric to make it resonate,” says Nadine.
No sooner do the comforting swells of the song’s closing horn section slow your breathing than Nadine quickens your heart rate with lead single “Stealing Cars” – the bass hits your stomach like a sonic boom before serrated guitar lines drive the rhythms forward, colliding with those minimal yet addictive piano refrains. Speaking of the scarcity of keys on the new album Nadine says: “I felt quite restricted just sat behind the piano all the time on stage, so touring really catered for the way this record sounds. Everything started on guitar whereas last time Ben re-wrote piano parts for the guitar.” All the more addictive for their rarity, the piano provides light relief to Nadine’s all-important, enigmatic vocals. Yearning and tender yet billowing and aggressive; they weave a tale full of anxiety, vulnerability and nightmares.
Speaking further on her collaboration with Ben, Nadine adds: “This is the second album we’ve written together and we’re much quicker and less precious with ideas. Having worked together so much now, we’re more comfortable with each other; it’s streamlined the process, made the writing more instinctive.”
“Fool” is the album at its most bitter, but like “Nothing Else To Do” and everything Nadine touches there is a wry humour and sweetness beneath the poised menace of its guitars and spitting lyrics. “When I mention damn Nick Cave and Kerouac, I’m pointing out someone’s predictable nature, but Kerouac is my favourite author and Nick Cave is my favourite musician” she explains, tongue firmly in cheek.
Though most of the album is wrapped in metaphor, closing track “Living” offers an unblinking insight into Nadine’s world. Written for her best friend, it’s centred on living in London in your late 20’s: “It’s a weird old time, especially in London. It’s an expensive city, it can be a cruel city and it can be very lonely. We start getting this fear that we need to find ‘proper jobs’ or a partner to settle down with, and it’s our frustration with those pressures, of being told by society to grow up. But we’re not ready yet. We haven’t quite got there.”
Setting the pace with this beguiling and exhilarating listen, Fast Food cements Nadine Shah as one of the UK’s most exciting and enthralling talents. Whether it’s the brutal honesty of the love stories, the brooding, crystalline guitars or even the rich, soulful vibrancy of her voice, Fast Food is an immediate, lavish and wholly vital album for 2015.
Fast Food tracklist:
1. Fast Food
5. Nothing Else To Do
6. Stealing Cars
7. Washed Up
8. The Gin One
9. Big Hands
Watch the video for ‘Stealing Cars’ by Nadine Shah, here:
April UK Tour Dates
06/04/15Brighton Resident United Kingdom
07/04/15 London Rough trade East United Kingdom
08/04/15 Bristol Rise (In-Store) United Kingdom
09/04/15 Nottingham Rough Trade United Kingdom
10/04/15 Brighton The Haunt United Kingdom
11/04/15 Gateshead Old Town Hall United Kingdom
13/04/15 Glasgow King Tuts Wah Wah Hut United Kingdom
14/04/15 Manchester Deaf Institute United Kingdom
16/04/15 London Oslo United Kingdom
17/04/15 Bristol Exchange United Kingdom
18/04/15 Birmingham Rainbow United Kingdom
‘Love Your Dum and Mad is astonishingly coherent’ Sunday Times ‘Album of the Week’
‘It’s utterly magnetic. There are few albums that will make you experience so many emotions concurrently, and even fewer that will still give you chills hours later’ 8/10‘Album of the Week’ The Line of Best Fit
‘An assured launch of a career that will provoke and explore in the style of Bjork or PJ Harvey’
‘Stand Out Album’ 4/5 Daily Mirror
‘Cosy and cataclysmic all at the same time, this is one of the most compelling expressions of Great British gothic since Morrissey made a date at the cemetery gates’ 4/5 Time Out
“It signals a clear-cut evolution for Shah” – The Line of Best Fit “A heart stopping comeback” – DIY
‘Subtle electronics and the creation of desolate, 3-D spaces is the icing on a seductively ruined cake’ 8/10 Uncut