Natalie Walker: With You

James Bassett

Dreary and instantly forgettable second album from former Daughter Darling vocalist.

Natalie Walker

With You

Label: Quango
US Release Date: 2008-08-19
UK Release Date: 2008-08-18

The first thing to say about Without You is that Natalie Walker has a beautiful voice. That might be the second thing to say as well, just to emphasise the point, and also because there is precious little else to mention about this dreary, instantly forgettable album.

Walker's debut album, Urban Angel, rightly garnered some heavy duty critical acclaim. Aside from an ill-advised and frankly pointless cover version of Counting Crows' "Colorblind", it was a sexy and poignant album that deserved the heavy radio rotation it received. Walker's tracks turned up on Entourage, Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy, and Sofia Coppola used the Thievery Corporation remix of "Quicksand" for the trailer of her film Marie Antoinette.

For her second album, Walker reunites with Brooklyn production duo Stuhr (the pair of Dan Chen and Nate Greenberg, who have worked with, amongst others, Mya and Bebel Gilberto). But something is missing. Walker's lyrics, once elegant, sad, and lovely, are now saccharine and dull. Stuhr’s production is now lightweight and torpid.

The clever, glitchy beats and graceful string arrangements from Urban Angel are no more, replaced instead by weak drum machines and monotonous circular rhythms. Much of With You wanders aimlessly along a path of mediocrity, with even Walker's gorgeous voice not able to drag "By and By", "Only Love", and "Monarch" out of the bland wilderness they each inhabit.

When Stuhr take some risks, as they do on first single "Over and Under", the results are infinitely more interesting. Pet Shop Boys synth burbles and spirals around Walker's graceful vocal delivery. On the title track, Chen and Greenberg use more synth, guitar, and a muffled drum as the merest accompaniments. When she's unencumbered and centre stage, Walker's voice is still tremendous. It's a shame that she uses it to sing such low-grade, sixth form poetry ("You came into my life and then everything changed / Love this strong never fades… This world is a better place with you"). But despite the cloying sentimentality, the track "With You" is beautifully produced and more than a little bit lovely.

Taken in isolation, the dreamy soundscapes on "Over and Under" and "With You" aren't dissimilar to David Sitek's work on Scarlett Johansson's Anywhere I Lay My Head. Sadly, though, those two tracks stand alone. There is nothing else on With You that comes close to replicating the austere electronica of Daughter Darling or the clear, welcoming sweetness of Urban Angel.

In fact, given Walker's previously stellar work, With You would be depressing if it were capable of invoking any emotion whatsoever.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.