Karen O is most known for her incredible work as the lead vocalist of indie-rock juggernauts, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. From a ten year period ranging from 2003-2013, the group released four albums that would enamor fans around the world and become part of a growing indie-rock movement that is still chugging along. What separated the Yeah Yeah Yeahs apart from most bands in the genre though would be the strong pipes of Karen O. Her voice has just enough harsh qualities to mix with the beauty she possesses in held notes. She has become a good example that your voice does not have to be perfect, you just have to have enough skill to make every song have some sense of meaning and purpose. The idea of her releasing a series of short songs reflecting her love life through harsher recording gives a promise of being intimate and interesting. It only ends up being sloppy and poorly mixed to an almost unlistenable level.
The mixing for the album is non-existent and if there is any production whatsoever, it was not there to make the music sound enjoyable in any fashion. All the songs sound as if they were recorded on a tape and played through the speakers of the an old tape player. The muffled vocals come off as more harsh than beautiful or enticing into her heartbreak. The one thing that mixing does do Crush Songs a favor is how intimate some moments can become. A handful of the tracks really bring forth heartbreak and a tangible amount of pain that almost becomes haunting. The only problem with the mood set in those tracks is that they never get any longer than three minutes. Setting a tone with music is a great skill, but the songs need a decent length to follow through with the process.
“Rapt” comes up early in the album as a highlight, utilizing dark lyrics and shrill vocals to set in an impending sense of love lost. “Days Go By” is a fun and slow love song about moving on from relationships, as told by strong and controlled vocals. “Body” sticks out as the sore thumb of the track listing, starting out as a beautiful melodic track that devolves into shrill screams and bizarre bells. She really strikes into what most fans want with the closing track, “Singalong.” There is a great sense of space with multiple vocal tracks singing in harmony, giving way for the Karen O that we all love to hear.
When the album decides to go sour, it does in a huge way. “Native Korean Rock” is semi-fun for the first half in which she makes a mocking song about growing up in America, but the second half just dies into silence for more than a minute of wasted space. “Visits” displays a want to be a poppy track, but the beat is recorded so poorly that the mixing with the vocals sounds like something anyone could do with a cell phone. “Other Side” comes off equally bad, using a dissonant guitar line and vocals to sound more shrill in tone, but the mixing is incredibly off. The track comes off as a colossal disaster ruining any rhythm that it could have.
Crush Songs has a few moments that display a portal into the world of a Karen O that is crushed under the weight of needed love. However, most of the songs are too short to register any level of intrigue and the sound mixing seems almost non-existent. For Yeah Yeah Yeahs fans, let’s hope in the future that Karen O polishes up the recording a bit and creates something a lot more heavy on substance.
5. Comes the Night
6. NYC Baby
7. Other Side
8. So Far
9. Days Go By
12. Indian Summer
13. Sunset Sun
14. Native Korean Rock