Nellie McKay

Get Away From Me

Columbia

So much about Nellie McKay, an unknown, 19-year-old pianist, is
completely audacious. With no small-label releases or substantial
underground buzz, the faith that Columbia has shown in McKay by
releasing her debut EP is shocking. Simultaneously touted as a
potential post-feminist icon and the next Burt Bacharach, McKay has
upped the ante even more by making her debut a full-fledged double
album.

Perhaps McKay’s most refreshing quality, and she has many,
is her utter conviction as a song writer. Iraq, President Bush and
dogs (she’s a member of PETA) are all enunciated or brutally
cut down, in her disarming cabaret voice. Even songs with obvious
titles quickly twist into something unexpected. “I Wanna Get
Married” turns into a subtle tirade against the monotony of
suburban life.

The subject of men frequently crop up in her song writing.
“Wont U Please B Nice” has the spike of a mace behind
the smile. However, she neither dismisses men on the whole nor
sounds indebted to them. She can’t stand overbearing men or
weak women.

McKay has cited equal influence from female torch singers like
Peggy Lee and modern rebellious artists like Eminem. She even busts
an occasional rap, like on the self-deprecating “Sari.”
The raps on the album are certainly one type of a diversion, but
ultimately they dilute an otherwise thick and promising mix.

Their forays are all good for shock value and most of the
overtly political lyrics do contain a wonderful passion, especially
in today’s politically sterile music world, but a bit more
restraint from McKay might be the next step. 3 out of 5 stars

— Evan McGarvey

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