Release Date: October 31, 2006
Label: Hungry Mouse
Two years ago, Nellie McKay released a double-album debut of fearless creativity that garnered her a bizarre hodgepodge of artistic comparisons ranging from Frank Zappa to Eminem to Doris Day. Now, she’s followed this up with her second double-album, originally meant to be released last year but shelved by her then record-label Columbia for being too long (and, one assumes… too ambitious). I hate to side with a record label, but Pretty Little Head could have done with a little trimming. Still, there is plenty here to love.
What made McKay’s debut such a standout was its seemingly endless stream of ideas. It was the sound of a theater geek turned inside out, verve and drama dripping from every hook. Too often on Pretty Little Head, McKay succumbs to her (admittedly fantastic) Doris Day impressions. In other words, some of the album is actually quite dull. That being said, cocky standouts like Cupcake, Real Life and The Big One replicate McKay’s earlier sound and help bolster the album along. Food, meanwhile, is a positively euphoric explosion that comes and goes all too soon. Pretty Little Head’s best track, Beecharmer, a duet (and cowrite) with Cyndi Lauper nearly rekindles some of that Time After Time magic.
On this double disc, the first half is far superior. Despite a jaunty duet with K.D. Lang and the aforementioned Food, tracks like the overwrought Mama & Me and the oh-too-cute Lali Est Paresseux end up sinking the final third of Head. However, with twenty-three tracks, it’s a wonder that so much here works. Pretty Little Head may be a step below McKay’s debut, but it is clearly the work of an artist that wants to give her fans more. Take it or leave it. One thing’s for sure: it will not be compromised. B
Key Tracks: Beecharmer, Food, Cupcake