While they rarely makes many headlines, in the past twenty years there's been a growing place for experimental female pop acts in the music scene. Geek girls have been quickly learning how to program and deconstruct just as well as their male counterparts, and have been making odd little groups like Cibo Matto or Ladytron to show off.
Naomi Hall follows in this tradition, but with a twist: she's eschewing most electronics, and instead embracing a jittery neo-folk style that's rooted heavily in early-60s British folk psychedelia.
More than anything else, though, Naomi Hall wants us to know that she's quirky! Her tracks create the auditory equivalent of a shopping spree with Natalie Portman in a Zach Braff movie. They're full of jangly piano, clicky-clacky percussion, tinkling bits of electronics, and momentary brass section appearances.
Hall's love for British folk twee in excess does verge on pushing listeners away. She creates kaleidoscopic soundscapes when, potentially, a more subtle approach might be more inviting. This is well illustrated by her cover of Syd Barrett's “The Gnome,” which is very easily imagined: It's “The Gnome” as orchestrated by George Martin, circa Sgt. Pepper.
Similarly, her nonsense songs like FINGERS! and Wheat Spaghetti grate, with too much of a “hey look at me!” vibe. They're fun, and I'm glad she's having fun, but she needs a bit more direction at times. Like her idols, she risks getting too cute for her own good.
On the other hand, when Naomi Hall has a bit more focus, she can be dynamite. “Until I Drown” is a hysterically snarky parody of sexual dance music, with absolutely unprintable lyrics. She gets even more openly farcical in “Bride of the Monster,” which is a Rocky Horror 50s-style rock opera, compressed into 4 highly amusing minutes.
If you like more traditional tunes, Honeymoon on Neptune and Without You are fun, upbeat numbers where Hall's quirky production sensibilities meld with songs that match. Her more traditional pop pieces are arguably her best, and are a lot of fun!
Naomi Hall's music isn't easily categorized and does, at times, risk sinking under the weight of its own quirky excess. Hall's wit and songwriting are sharp when she's got a target and some focus, though, and that's what matters. Folks wanting pop that's a little different might want to give her a try.
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