Vinyl Special – Crush Songs, by Karen O

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Released September 5, 2014

25 min, 25 sec

Crush Songs is a demo tape. Unlike most demo tapes, however, it wasn’t recorded as the prototype of any album that Karen O intended to make; rather, it was just a collection of short sketches, and the decision was made to put it out into the world and see what happened.

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This wasn’t Karen’s first run around the rodeo with a demo tape, though it was the first intentional one. K.O. at Home was allegedly recorded as a “gift” to Dave Sitek of the band TV on the Radio, and intended for his ears only. However, he left it behind when he moved out of the apartment he’d been living it, and the CD was discovered by the new resident, passed around, and eventually leaked onto the Internet. What followed was a minor shitstorm of hurt feelings and Dave Sitek unloading on the leaker for being a shithead, basically.

K.O. at Home was incredibly rough, recorded on what was probably a 4-track tape deck, with horrible sound quality. The song were barely formed, and most of them weren’t songs at all, just strings of sound and noise held together by some semblance of a rhythm. Crush Songs, by comparison, is much more fully formed, though the songs are still very short and very simple, with little mastering or editing.

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As the title suggests, the album revolves entirely around love, but not just as a general concept – rather, the formative version of love that forms in a crush on someone. A note explaining this, written by Karen, is included on the front of the gigantic booklet packaged with the album, noting that the demos were recorded in response to a number of crushes she felt in the wake of a failed relationship.

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Most of the album’s sketches reflect that. Crush Songs has a distinctive art style defined by the multitude of sketches included by Karen, each of which relates to a song on the album. In fact, the album’s entire art package was designed, drawn, and written out by Karen; the sole exception is a portrait of Karen as a child, done by her grandfather. The art is dirty, shaky, messy; it gives the album character matching the rough nature of the songs. Altogether, combined with the gorgeous blue vinyl, this album presents a great aesthetic to it.

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It’s not all that great of a listen, though. 25 minutes is not enough time for me to immerse in an album, and most of the songs are over before I can really get a grasp on them. I’m glad I bought it, because it’s a great physical package, but on the musical end it may not be totally worth it.

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