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Nina Nastasia - On Leaving

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 24 / 9 / 2006

Nina Nastasia - On Leaving
Label: Select Label
Format: CD


Sparse, unconventionally alluring Steven Albini-produce album from American-based singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia, who included the late John Peel amongst her fans

We all have our own John Peel memories, don’t we? One of my favourites came when Nina Nastasia visited the great man and his family at Peel Acres, in order to perform some songs from her album, ‘The Blackened Air’. While Peel played records, entertaining listeners with his usual carefully selected parade of the brilliant and the bizarre, Peel’s family entertained Nina. By her final song, she was obviously pretty drunk, and struggled cheerfully through the performance. It was great radio, and an insight into the real Nina Nastasia that a more professional performance could never have given us. I immediately bought myself a copy of ‘The Blackened Air’, an album I still play often. Since then, she has reissued her debut, ‘Dogs’ and recorded another album ‘Run To Ruin’, which featured a new, more expansive style of songwriting. ‘On Leaving’, her first for new label Fat Cat, is closest to ‘The Blackened Air’ in terms of songwriting, but is the sparsest of all her album instrumentally. Nastasia’s songs burn slowly. The seem slight on first listen, you may wonder if there is a melody there at all. Repeat listens, however, draw you ever deeper in, and, without noticing it, these songs burrow ever deeper inside your head. Her voice, rich but still delicate, carries them marvellously, and that is, I think, her secret. If I have one quibble, it is with the recording. I accept that this is sparse, with the instrumentation deliberately minimal, and in fact this suits the songs and the voice. But the album sometimes feels too cold, as if the voice is singing alone, and the music has just been stuck underneath. If the guitars had just been brought out a little, it would have sounded even better. Perhaps Steve Albini - who records all her albums - was too tempted to experiment. Since Nastasia’s songs are unconventionally alluring, she doesn’t need any other quirks. It is no coincidence that the fuller tracks, with thicker backing, (such as the exceptional ‘Lee‘, embellished fabulously by strings)are the best. And yet, this is a minor point. This is a very enjoyable album from an artist for whom many surely have a very, very high record. It is a shame John Peel won’t be able to hear it. I’d be surprised if this isn’t eventually among my choices for album of the year.

Track Listing:-
1 Jim's Room
2 Brad Haunts A Party
3 Our Day Trip
4 Counting Up Your Bones
5 Dumb I Am
6 Why Don't You Stay Home
7 One Old Woman
8 Treehouse Song
9 Lee
10 Settling Song
11 Bird Of Cuzco
12 If We Go To The West

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