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Review: Natalie Walker – Urban Angel

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A great album paints a picture. Just like a movie, it transports you to a world. Whether that world is the slums of the Bronx, the backstreets of Manchester, the favelas of Rio, or even the cul de sacs of suburban America, a true artist lets you into their soul and their surroundings.

When I got the chance to review the latest CD by Daughter Darling frontwoman Natalie Walker, I was put into a bind. I didn’t much care for Walker’s previous effort; however there is something about her latest solo CD, Urban Angel that was distinctly different from the muddled “Adult Contemporary” landscape.

As a trip-hop unit, Daughter Darling fell short of reaching the masters like Portishead and Massive Attack. However, with Urban Angel, Walker and producer Stuhr (Mya, Bebel Gilberto) strip out many of the electronic elements for simple and organic uses of strings, guitar, and some light synth sounds. In fact, it really doesn’t feel like a trip-hop album to me at all. Unlike the genre, Urban Angel seems warm and inviting and dare I say accessible to a mainstream audience. Contrast this to, let’s say Beth Gibbons (one of my favorite singers) of Portishead, and you see the distinct difference.

Also, unlike Ms. Gibbons, whose lyrics and imagery want to shut you out of her world, Natalie’s lyrics invite you into hers. Tracks like “No One Else,” and “Quicksand” standout as real winners. Instead of a world of glossed over teen pop, Walker songs about heartbreak and loneliness are honest and refreshing. At 23, it seems like she’s older than her years.

But nobody’s perfect. Her rendition of Counting Crow’s “Colorblind” falls way below the mark. In fact, it seems out of place on the disc.

If you’re looking for something different this summer, Urban Angel is definitely a good look. It’s chill, relaxing, but remains to be poignant and downright sexy.

Urban Angel drops on August 22nd on Dorado Records. Until then, her EP, No One Else is out on iTunes.

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