Kate Nash: 9 Sad Symphonies – Swoonsome strings, emotionally cathartic lyrics

Beautiful arrangements are in abundance here, although many of Nash’s lyrics sound like the aural equivalent of an exposed nerve

9 Sad Symphonies
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Artist: Kate Nash
Genre: Pop
Label: Kill Rock Stars

It’s 17 years since Kate Nash released her debut album. Made of Bricks came out the year after Lily Allen’s own debut, and the parallels between the two 20-something Londoners singing about urban life and strife were both plentiful and tiresome.

Those comparisons were ultimately short-lived, however, as the pair took divergent paths: Nash was dropped from her label after her second album, rallied as an independent artist, found fame as an actor in the Netflix dramedy Glow and more recently both cocreated and starred in Only Gold, an off-Broadway musical made in collaboration with the Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler.

Her work on that project bled into the creation of her fifth album, conceived during (and inspired by) the Covid pandemic. She reconnected with the Danish producer Frederick Thaae, her musical collaborator on Only Gold, and they set about writing a record together over Zoom. Nash’s main objective, she says, was to “make something beautiful, nothing harsh. I’ve done a lot of harsh stuff before.”

As the title suggests, there are beautiful arrangements in abundance, although many of Nash’s lyrics sound like the aural equivalent of an exposed nerve. Millions of Heartbeats documents her struggle to find beauty amid deep depression, with lines such as “Everything you feel can just come undone / And the media supports all the far-right scum.” Ray takes a similarly blunt approach to documenting her mental-health struggles from a hospital bed: “Tick tick tick in my head / Do I really wish that I was dead?”


Wasteman is a scathing takedown of a former flame, while the heartache of Horsie (“Crying in the car park of Home Depot” and Abandoned (“It’s hard to feel any happiness”) is conspicuous.

As bleak as things get, Nash goes some way to tempering the grimness with a sense of reclaiming control. My Bile shirks off her people-pleasing tendencies in the music industry with a chirpy pithiness: “Everyone, every person I thought I had to please / I’m leaving that at the door / I don’t want to be like that any more”. Space Odyssey 2001 is a humorous reminiscence on her first date with her current partner.

Her desire to keep things beautiful, at least musically, rings largely true. Swoonsome strings sweep through most of these songs, adding dramatic flourishes here and chamber-pop inclinations there. Perhaps her work on Only Gold has been more informative than she realised. At the same time, flashes of adventurous pop are audible, as on the surprising EDM/garage of Wasteman.

Kate Nash: ‘That’s why people love debuts. You’re not jaded in any way’Opens in new window ]

It’s a somewhat disjointed pop album that’s often more maudlin than enjoyable for the listener, but seems emotionally cathartic for an artist who is unapologetically herself.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times