Nellie McKay

Nellie McKay

Nellie McKay

Get Away From Me

Columbia Records

Nellie McKay is one of the most unique and versatile musicians to come around in the past decade. Her debut release, Get Away From Me, incorporates almost every musical genre, from hip-hop (“Sari” and “Inner Peace”) to lounge (“Suitcase Song”) to musical theater (“Ding Dong”). It is with this diversity that McKay forces the listener to pay attention to every note and every word on this album.

This is not an album that you can listen to while doing other things. It might start out that way, but before you know it, you are glued to your seat waiting for the next surprise. Such as when she yells “Die motherfucker!” on “Sari,” or when you realize that “The Dog Song” really is about adopting a dog. These surprises are everywhere, and there is always one more to be found during every listen.

One song will lull you into a relaxed state of euphoria and then she’ll follow it with a tribal rap. Such is the case with “Suitcase Song” and “Work Song.” Just as I was settling in for a soothing listen with “Suitcase Song,” the soft piano of “Work Song” turns into war drums as Ms. McKay promptly spits out, “Deliver the paper/ Deliver the porn/ Deliver the baker/ Deliver the mourn.”

“Clonie” is like an ’80s show tune. It’s less than two minutes long and it’s all about how she loves her “clonie.” So much so that she tells her that she’s “my favorite attraction-y.”

“I Wanna Get Married” is a lovely slow ballad in the vein of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. The best line is, “I wanna pack cute little lunches/ for my Brady bunches/ then read Danielle Steel.”

Lyrically, this is hands down the best album of the year. Ms. McKay scatters palpable pop culture references (i.e., “Dr. Phil/ Ready for my pill” from “Change The World”) throughout. It is a lesson in what good music can truly sound like. And at age 20, who knows what she will come up with next. Whatever it is, I can’t wait.

Nellie McKay: www.nelliemckay.net

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