When we last left Kate Nash, she had released her debut album “Made of Bricks” to moderate praise. A compatriot of Lily Allen, Nash marks another Myspace success story where a girl writes pop songs that can tend to be on the brutally honest side, lyrically speaking. Well, she’s got a brand new album out today called “My Best Friend Is You,” and it’s…interesting, to say the least.

The album starts off with the songs “Paris” and “Kiss That Grrrl”, both of which are songs about boys and very much fall into a category of pop song we’ve heard a thousand times before. Both songs, while individually catchy, don’t really offer us anything new or worthwhile aside from a great lyric or two. When the album starts to get really interesting though is on the song “Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt?”. The song is a ballad that’s once again about a relationship with a boy, but there’s a breakdown towards the end of the song where Nash just goes off on this spoken word tangent that is emotionally soul-baring and moderately impressive. Then things get weird. “I Love You More” is basically 3 minutes of Nash repeating the song title over and over again in different tones and eventually getting dark and tortured about it. Seriously, it sounds like an old P.J. Harvey song, and I’d call that a great thing if there wasn’t so much lighthearted pop that came before it. Having Nash sound like a tortured soul, wailing all over that song is also vocally impressive, but again, the song sticks out like a sore thumb. “Higher Plane” would fall right back into the standard pop song category if it weren’t for the chipper violin that accompanies the song to add some serious diversity. Fuzzed out guitars and handclaps form the basis for the also-P.J. Harvey-esque “I’ve Got A Secret,” which also has some interesting drum fills to add to the utter strangeness.

Perhaps the biggest topping on this proverbial mixture of pop and oddity is “Mansion Song,” the first half of which features Nash, all by her lonesome, going on a wild rant that includes references to getting “fucked like the best of men” and “fucked in drag,” cocaine, Guitar Hero, and STDs, among other things. It’s a gigantic WTF moment that’s either designed to be brutally honest or strategically engineered to shock. The second half of the song is basically a drum-n-bass tribal chant which seems tame by comparison to what just happened on the first half. More light pop tunes about boys occupy the first part of the second half of the record, my favorite being “Pickpocket,” where Nash finally gets back behind the piano that she played for much of her first album. “You Were So Far Away” is an emotionally stripped bare acoustic ballad that’s just a bit depressing when the line “I can taste the metal/feel the gun in my mouth” is uttered…twice. To close, the song “I Hate Seagulls” starts with a carefully plucked acoustic guitar as Nash goes through a list of things she hates (hint: it’s a lot of things). But then piano comes in, followed by some violin, and the lyrics transition into things she likes (hint: it’s also a lot of things) and how she enjoys sharing them with a boy she really cares about.

So here’s the deal, when “My Best Friend Is You” is all said and done: we’re left wondering exactly what or who the real Kate Nash is. Is she the pop songstress who writes lyrics to catchy songs with full band backing, or is she the tortured soul who just wants to be loved? The album presents it as almost Jekyll and Hyde in manner, with the lighter, more upbeat fare paired together at a couple different spots, and then the darker, serious and vulgar stuff hitting at different times as well. Given that she is signed to a major label, it may be relatively safe to say that Nash was forced into making some of the more “radio friendly” songs on the album, with the hopes that it will get radio airplay and lead to decent sales. I’ll give you this much – the stranger, more experimental stuff is definitely more interesting and were she to do a full album’s worth of it, I can see the makings of something brilliant. For now though, “My Best Friend Is You” only partly satisfies. I can’t quite stamp my personal recommendation on this album, but I am very much rooting for Kate Nash, and I hope she gets to make an entire record with a solid style that’s effectively personal and works purely to her own strengths.

Kate Nash- I Just Love You More (via Pitchfork)

Buy “My Best Friend Is You” from Insound