Nataly Dawn - How I Knew Her
Record Label: Nonesuch Records
Release Date: February 12th, 2013
Nataly Dawn, the face and voice of the Youtube sensation two-piece ensemble Pomplamoose, has released her first full-length solo album, How I Knew Her. Consisting of several of her previously released acoustic pieces re-recorded and receiving a new coat of paint with additional instrumental accompaniment by way of talented musicians Ben Folds, Jack Conte, Ryan Lerman, David Piltch, Louis Cole, and Matt Chamberlin, as well as several new songs, pad out the album to twelve tracks.
Succeeding magnificently in funding the album via Kickstarter (despite some confusion and drama breaking out due to Dawn’s lack of communication), How I Knew Her is a fan-backed venture all the way. So it’s a shame that, despite a few stand-out parts of a few select tracks, the album just falls short of working as a whole. Pomplamoose’s luster has long since faded, as they find themselves in the awkward place of being too developed to have the quaint charm of being just a couple of regular people who are extremely talented musicians who make songs in their bedroom, but not developed enough for many of their songs to cross over into being particularly memorable or able to stand on their own without being accompanied by the “see-it-while-it-happens” Video Song format. However, Dawn’s clever, if sickeningly sweet lyrics, and throw-back vocal style have always stood out in a positive way, and hinted at an untapped potential not seen in Pomplamoose. Despite this, that intangible talent still simply just hasn’t made itself known here.
Ironically, the re-recorded and pumped-up versions of Dawn’s previous songs, while being much more dynamic from an instrumental standpoint, find themselves much weaker here. They have lost the special intimacy that came with their paired-down original versions being simply a woman with a guitar spilling her heart. Here, the new additions serve as a padded block that keep you from connecting in a more powerful way. Such a difference can be seen in the track “Leslie,” from its original form; the song addresses the dark subject matter of stillborn death, yet due to it’s additional instrumentals, comes across as inappropriately flippant, rather than darkly ironic like the original, rendering it uncomfortable to listen to.
How I Knew Her’s original tracks fare somewhat better, however. Being built from the ground up for this project, they feel much more organically tied to the performances that make them up. Standouts include the very solid title track “How I Knew Her,” which builds up into a very satisfying ending, and the toe-tappingly catchy and twangy “Even Steven” will easily be engrained on your mind long after the run-time ends.
Dawn’s full-length debut is a frustrating listen. Not because it is necessarily bad, but because hints of brilliance and promise of something new litter the entire album, yet besides the aforementioned standouts, it simply can’t capitalize on that promise. The resulting album is depressingly forgettable. Pomplamoose and long-standing Dawn fans will be smitten from track one, “Araceli,” but for anyone else, buying individual tracks from iTunes will be the better bet.
It is easy to find oneself cheering for Nataly Dawn’s How I Knew Her, and wishing it success, if only for its DIY roots. Yet, on it’s own merits, the album could, at best be considered pleasant coffee shop white noise, and at worst quite forgettable and inconsequential. Hopefully the promise faintly seen in How I Knew Her will manifest itself in Dawn’s future releases.