A long long while ago, there was a time when Youtube was in its infancy. Despite the smaller audience, it was much easier to get noticed on the site back then, primarily because there was a wide open playing field to do plenty of fresh and original things. In the dark year of 2008, a small little channel called PomplamooseMusic, consisting of duo Nataly Dawn and partner-in-crime Jack Conte, popped up on the site and quickly gained attention for the high quality covers that they performed together. The videos were often characterized by their fun, quirky production values and it was all very endearing. Especially when there weren't many of things on the web comparable to it.
Since then, the Pomplamoose channel has continued to attract viewers, in the face of an over saturated market for Youtube cover bands. Outside of the Youtube venture, the singer of Pomplamoose, Nataly Dawn has proven she possesses a keen mind for social media and viral trends. In fact, her debut solo album, How I Knew Her would have never come into existence if she didn't know how to manipulate the internet in this way. Let me elaborate for a second. Nataly opened up a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 for the recording of the aforementioned album. She ended up with a six figure number instead of her modest assessment and subsequently decided to use the cash to produce the "album of her dreams."
Almost two years later, the final product has finally arrived, and if it feels like the methods of conception overshadow the actual music, that's perfectly normal. After all, it's not every day that an artist carves out a space for creative control such as this. So that part is commendable. Nataly was able to make a polished, professional, and well-executed recording, consisting of professional musicianship of the highest quality. She clearly didn't short-change any step of the process, right down to the mixing and studio locations. She even hired a film crew, complete with lighting, to document the entire recording process. Let's all give her a collective 'A' for effort on this one.
So why am I left somewhat disappointed by this album, especially considering Nataly was thorough down to the very last detail? It now seems like that she has joined an exclusive club of musicians consisting of the likes of Fiona Apple and Feist, who create zany, slanted, and alternative folk/pop/indie music. The first track of the album, "Araceli" contains sparse, disjointed percussion and should draw immediate comparisons to the Idler Wheel , in terms of not only music, but vocally, too. It's true, Miss Dawn possesses the very same fragile, yet sweet singing voice that Fiona pioneered in the 90s. "Maybe this isn't such a bad thing," I told myself countless times. I mean, the fact that the two are even comparable should be something to consider in light of Fiona's immense talent right? Well, kind of. All too often, Nataly works within this existing framework and does little to expand, improve upon, or revolutionize it. That's not to say there aren't some genuine moments. "Why Did You Marry" is laden with a beautiful string arrangement, along with a plunking piano line, all of which serve the story of the melodic lyrics very well.
Nataly does succeed as a lyricist more often than not, and the words behind the songs are usually brilliant. She finds ways to juxtapose ridiculous concepts with startling ease. These moments are especially effective in songs like "I Just Want You To Get Old," where the melody leaves room for pause between the lines: "Like the books that you read me and the jokes that you told/I just want you to get old." When Nataly bridges this gap between the unexpected, the clever, and the predictable, she is a dangerously sharp writer of songs. She often plays with themes of personal relationships along with concepts of a higher power. Sometimes these two dynamics collide together in a manner that is almost too good to be true. "Still A Believer" is loaded with her signature wit. She exclaims, "I don't know what I believe in/But I'm hoping that Jesus/ Won't send us all to hell," in a song containing references not only to her grandmother but her rock n' roll boyfriend, as well. It's an interesting mix, and Nataly makes is pleasurable with ease.
Ultimately the virtues of this record overcome any shortcomings it may have. Her proactive and innovative approach to its creation is deserving of highest praise in any creative sense imaginable. Considering the steps she had to undergo to record it, the fact that the disc is sitting in my stereo at home is not only a tribute to her sheer force of will, but her bravery, too.
Check out Nataly's video for "How I Knew Her" below: