Label: Nonesuch Records
Release Date: Feb. 12
Nataly Dawn’s story is as modern as reality television. She first gained attention as one half of the quirky duo, Pomplamoose, which uploaded original songs and covers to YouTube and built up a strong following.
Pomplamoose, formed with a classmate named Jack Conte while Dawn was attending Stanford University, eventually gave way to Dawn’s wish for a solo album. A Kickstarter project was developed for her debut, and within three days, Dawn had reached her funding goal.
The rest, as they say, is history. Or, well, very nearly.
The Kickstarter fund eventually pulled in over five times what Dawn had originally hoped to raise, and Tuesday’s album release is the result. Listening through the LP, it’s evident why Dawn’s fans wanted to make “How I Knew Her” a reality.
Her time with Pomplamoose means Dawn is no stranger to the music world. Her first, full-length solo release reflects a certain level of comfort in her own skin, which is refreshing in an up-and-coming artist.
Dawn’s “How I Knew Her” is an ambitious LP that throws its best at listeners straight from the get-go. Playful “Araceli” is a guitar-plucking two-step that features Dawn’s silky voice in all its strength.
At the opposite end of the musical spectrum is the quiet “Back to the Barracks,” which is all but a cappella in its simplicity.
That isn’t to say that it isn’t a layered track, however. The acoustic track allows for Dawn to experiment with her vocals, and the effect is eerie.
As a matter of fact, “Back to the Barracks” is when the album as a whole begins to change directions, whereas “Araceli” is bright, the later tracks are markedly darker. There’s a tinge of irony and cynicism that contrasts with the upbeat tone of Dawn’s voice in “Long Running Joke” and “Please Don’t Scream.”
The latter of these tracks is one of the few times on this album where the train goes off the rails, so to speak. While the band sounds great, there’s something missing in the timber of Dawn’s voice. The music calls for all-out crooning, the kind of passion that molds vocals into something deeply satisfying. It’s just not there on “Please Don’t Scream” the way it is on the album’s quieter tracks.
Those, on the other hand, fit Dawn’s voice like a glove. She fills out the quiet confines of “Why Did You Marry,” a poetic ditty that wouldn’t be out of place in an old French film.
The LP’s songwriting is in the strain of other female solo greats like Ingrid Michaelson and Corinne Bailey Rae, but it’s Dawn’s voice that really stands out. It’s one-of-a-kind, effortlessly executing the slides and trills so integral to Dawn’s sound. And in hopes of giving credit where it’s due, it is impossible to go without mentioning again Dawn’s band, which includes Conte and is featured heavily on this debut.
“How I Knew Her” is a strong opening act to what will surely be a vibrant career for Dawn.
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