KAYAH & ROYAL QUARTET – Kayah & Royal Quartet (2010)

Review by: Kyle Wilson
Album assigned by: Nina A

Disclaimer:
 
(This reviewer knows very little about classical music, from specific composers, to how it’s written or performed, nor is he well versed in Polish or Romani language, culture or music, as he is mostly an ignorant, white American who loves the Beatles.
 
While he has a general appreciation for string and horn arrangements, believing they always make songs sound better, he is utterly unable to provide accurate musical descriptions of such songs beyond the use of such vague terms as “heavy”, “dark” and “menacing”, or on the lighter side…”light” or “fast” or “ethereal fluttering.” Terms like “fugue” or “baroque” or “arpeggio” might as well be names of Italian drag queens.
 
Furthermore, before being assigned this album, he was completely unaware of the existence of Kayah, Polish singer-songwriter, whose songs appear to be a blend of Polish, Romani, jazz, soul, funk and pop influences, among others. He was therefore totally oblivious to any of her albums, including Kayah & Royal Quartet, a 2010 collaboration between her and the Royal String Quartet covering a selection of her songs.
 
In an attempt to better understand her music, the reviewer attempted to learn as much about her as possible, and listen to a few of her studio albums. Beyond feeling that what little he listened to was “not bad,” he found it difficult to commit himself to listening to albums in a language he did not understand, despite his OBSESSION with mariachi music.
 
In a last ditch effort to have some kind of knowledge of the music to make analysis even remotely interesting, he looked up the lyrics. In Polish. Which he couldn’t understand. Even with words he couldn’t understand, he hoped they would at least give him some semblance of comprehension about the basic structure of the pieces as pop songs. The help was minimal, and with such wonderfully useful Google translations as “carat big as her anxiety when you raise your hand this buys her dress,” he feared he would have nothing to say.
 
Finally, the reviewer decided to stop worrying and just listen to the album.
He was honestly surprised at how much he enjoyed it, and then worried if this made him racist. He reluctantly concluded that it didn’t, but that he should keep an eye on his privilege, just in case. 
As he listened to the album, he began to write down some first impressions. I, the disclaimer, must warn you: these are superficial descriptions, and might trigger you to be amused and bewildered.
 
“Kwartesencja – slow, menacing and sharp, matches the tone of the album cover, Romani influenced, instrumental, nice, optimistic tone in the last 30 seconds building up to the next track.
 
Za Blisko – discernible vocal melody, but hard to pin point with the Polish lyrics. Bright and sumptuous arrangement, smooth and clear vocals. The part in the middle with the fast whispering is annoying and for a brief moment crosses into Yoko Ono territory but then the music disappears and all we hear are Kayah and her slow, heavy, breathy heaves. Sexy as fuck! Then a split second of acapella singing as the song begins again and then crawls to a descent and then a slow fade. Damn!
 
Prosba Do Twych Ust – It is admittedly difficult to tell these vocals and melodies apart without understanding the language. The thing is, with Za Blisko, I was able to discern the chorus, but with this track, it’s almost impossible. Not knowing the language, I may need to stop trying to analyze and just take in the sound. And what a sound it is! Soaring, powerful, sometimes angry vocals, to a musical backing that is at times searing, and other times ethereal, with the strings fluttering like a butterfly.
 
Testosteron – Holy shit this song is amazing! It starts with some nice, tasteful plucking strings, with a clear melody in the verses, before the chorus begins and the strings get heavier and darker, sweeping past as Kayah blasts the male hormone for all its destructive capabilities, and then she declares the title of the song and the strings become HEAVY and low, and you feel the misery and anger she’s singing about as the deep, menacing strings rise back up for the second verse, but they are building, building, building and then 3 minutes in, the climax! The strings rage in a monstrous, frightening surge, as she gives one more powerful delivery of the chorus, and then the song just ends, with her words hanging in the air. Breathtaking! I prefer this version over the original 1000000%!”
 
Thus ends the first impressions of this reviewing giant, who only really bothered to analyze the first four songs, although he was so honestly blown away by the fourth song that every other one would probably sound the same to him.
 
Which was his general, uninformed, Philistine opinion when he actually bothered to listen to the whole album, apart from the surprising English language cover of Grace Jones’ Libertango.
 
The “reviewer” seems to think that, apart from Testosteron and Libertango, which are the “obvious” standouts, the album is mostly all just the same vibe, of being nicely produced, with clear, sexy vocals and some “cool,” dramatic string arrangements.
 
Which, considering this is a European pop star collaborating with a string quartet to cover some of her own songs, this seems like a fairly redundant viewpoint to have, but again, this reviewer isn’t that great, hence the disclaimer. I mean, he’ll probably end up turning it in late. And so, after being 
thoroughly forewarned…)
 
Oh. Um. The album was pretty good. Nice. Testosteron was awesome. I mean…
 
This is the bit right? That the whole actual review was in the disclaimer? It’s kinda dumb…
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Author: tomymostalas

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