Nadine Shah- Love Your Dum and Mad

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, June 7, 2013

Nadine Shah’s Dreary Town was an impressive EP that took on a more subdued approach and let the vocals steal the spotlight. Following up this effort is the Love Your Dum and Mad full length, which comes only three months later but completely blows away everything that has come before it. While there are still some of the somber, subdued numbers the album as a whole is much more dynamic and finds Shah hitting a wide range of stylistic elements. It’s an incredible listen that blew away my already high expectations, and stands as one of the year’s best experiences from a singer/songwriter that only seems to keep getting better.

Both of the title tracks from Nadine Shah’s previous EPs make an appearance here, and placed into the context of a full length album they reveal the full depth of her style. “Aching Bones” starts the release off and is a much louder, bombastic number that has twisting and turning guitar and piano work mixed with clanging percussion. “Dreary Town” heads the opposite direction, stripping things down to somber piano melodies and taking a much more subdued approach. In the time that passes between these two tracks, Shah heads in a whole slew of other directions and ensures that she is never covering the same exact ground as before. There are extended orchestral moments, and even a hint of British dub on “Floating.” Whether the instrumentals head into soft folk or louder rock-tinged moments there is always some sort of hook that instantly grabs you. Love Your Dum and Mad maintains this type of dynamic performance down to its last note, and the sprawling nature of many of these tracks makes it easy to get lost in them. The song that will likely be regarded as one of Nadine Shah’s finest moments would have to be “To Be A Young Man” though, as the combination of acoustic and distorted guitars along with the soaring vocals is absolutely breathtaking.

I previously found Shah’s vocal capabilities to be absolutely stunning, particularly on her cover of “Cry Me A River.” But this time around she seems to have pushed her range even further, and some of the chorus lines find her letting loose and delivering soaring melodic pitches that are haunting and powerful at the same time. Even the more subdued performances where the vocals are taken down a notch are truly captivating and there are very few singers that have been able to hook me in this way from one moment to the next. Another element that really helps is the storytelling, as even when Shah tackles subjects that aren’t her own personal story (“To Be A Young Man” is based on the recollections of an older gentleman she met at a bar who talked about his past) she turns them into her own and delivers the lines with such emotion that it’s hard not to be completely sucked in.

Love Your Dum And Mad pulls from a lot of different genres, hopping between rock, dark folk, and even some arrangements that showcase Nadine Shah’s roots as a jazz singer, but no matter what you choose to categorize it as this album has serious staying power. Right from the beginning the material sucks you in and Shah’s entrancing vocals will ensure that listeners give this disc plenty of spins. But what I find the most impressive is that after only two EPs and a full length this singer/songwriter seems to have reached a level of depth and character that can take others years and years to realize, and that means there is still even more to look forward to.

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