On the outside looking in, always judging a book by its cover, and not always getting it right. Edmund Roycroft roots through the Polish album scene, not knowing pop from hip hop as he gets lost in translation and is forced to judge an LP from its artwork.
Last week People of the Haze were up on the chopping block and turned out to be a great little find. For those of you who missed their recent gig in Klub Muzyczny Liverpool, do not fear as the band return for pre-Christmas gigs at Teatr Wspolczesny on December 18th 19th 20th and 21st, so grab those tickets now, they’ve got to be hot this time of year. So, let’s move on to this week’s review of the Natalia Przybysz album Prąd.
Prąd is probably the simplest album cover I’ve picked up for review since I began this little series. A solitary Natalia Przybysz stands with her back to a wooden wall, her head bent to the left with eyes fixed upon the ground. The sun shines from above on to her figure and casts a small shadow, her woollen cardigan hugged around her frame. You can almost smell the varnish from the wood warming in the suns gaze, superbly subtle.
In perfect chronological order we open on Prąd, the title track. From the get go we are greeted to an all Polish album with an edgy lyrical style. Lead guitar pics stand up beside Natalia Przybysz vocals, which are warming and the burning story of passion keep a steady pace. “Moze Byc Tak”, the key words which replay in your mind all day. 4★★★★
Miod is the crooner tune, Natalia lets rip with moving, stern vocals. The backing instruments roll along with late nineties rock sounds. Not dissimilar to Sheryl Crow’s self-title album with joyful country rock and roll under currents. 4★★★★
At three we have Nie Bede Twoja Laleczka which echoes the previous tracks sounds with some drive time electric guitars and tambourine shaking the time into place. Nie Bede Twoja Laleczka could have slipped through the ages and not have been influenced that much by later sounds in the 2000’s and onwards, which really comes through more on the next track. 3.5★★★
XJS feels like we’ve all travelled through this musical territory before and were glad when it morphed into something a little more embracing and fresh. This number does not and could be an older tune that did not stand the test of time. It may sound better live but I feel it doesn’t do anything for the album. The anchor tune 3★★★
Nazy Sie Niebo grants some freshness that we previously hoped for. Crisp and fresh as the sky sung about, uplifting beats and that country feel emanating with intertwining strings and clapping hands loop to restore a sense of justice since we left off from Miod. 4★★★★
New sounds on Prąd alert us once again to what we hoped from the start. Kwiaty Ojczyste is pure rock with definitive percussion and rasping vocals akin to Deborah Anne Dyer or Skin, as we’ve come to know her whilst hammering out the vocals for Skunk Anansie. This number is up there at that level, a rolling gemstone; it’s a polar opposite to tracks three and four. Powerful electric lead guitar and searing vocals add gravitas 4.5★★★★
A perfect accompaniment trails closely behind on number 7. Do Kogo Idziessz, is proof that less is more when it comes to minimising instruments and the effect the beats have due to this, primordial funk rock. Percussion and guitar hold firm with heavy rhythm. Natalia’s lyrical style is at its prime when exploring this territory. 4★★★★
Krolowa Sniegu opens a rear door to the backwoods with banjo strums hoisting Natalia’s vocals high above the canopy. This girl can croon the hell out of it, swelling into the dark recesses of your ear drums and more. Backing vocals float around like fireflies. This is certainly a hit, it moves and echoes in a cold landscape and her voice is the warm hearth of fire we search for in the pitch of the night. 4.5★★★★
And so it continues into its journey of shape shifting and cajoling that special something from deep within Ms. Przybysz’s vocal range. Przeze Mnie has sounds we crave to hear, well timed, tight and powerful. Moody to the bones, it’s something you’ve got to have as it rumbles past without a care. 4★★★★
Sto Lat ends this album as all albums should sometimes in reflective form. A song of hope with temperate strings and on rough translation repeated calls with Sto Lat/One hundred years. You can envision the sun setting on close with the surprise pop of a cork, seriously. 4★★★★
This is an album of percentages. Two percent failed to connect with the albums aesthetic, so let’s not be shy here; these are tracks three and four. Prąd plays really well, but these songs are stumbling blocks on a path to a finer album. I just don’t feel they belong. Prąd and Miod introduce us in a calm manner in terms of where this album may lead, which seemed to be in an interesting direction. From Nazywam Sie Niebo onwards it turned a corner into a notable album, certainly more than what I imagined. An eight track album is not unexceptable and though Nie Bede Twoja Laleczka is not a bad track, it is enjoyable; XJS comes across as being just filler. Still leaving these two tracks to one side it does the trick. Prad is a piece of music I am glad I picked up as Natalia Przybysz’s voice is something I would return to and the band’s sound is really exceptional, well more than exceptional and worth its weight.
Genre – Soul/Rock and a little bit of Country
Highlights – Sto Lat, Krolowa Idziesz, Kwiaty Ojczyste
If you like this, listen to – Alabama Shakes, Sheryl Crow’s self-titled album, Skunk Anansie for sheer lyrical prowess.