By Alexa Solis

Karen O’s debut solo album “Crush Songs” is exactly what its title implies — a collection of angst-ridden love songs reminiscent of those pesky crushes that never seem to go away.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs front woman has ditched her usual art punk style for a much more subdued atmosphere in her debut solo album. Comprised of home recordings from 2007 and 2008, the simplicity of the record is unexpected when thinking of O. While the absence of flair makes it an easy listen, it lacks the imaginative touch required to make such timeworn material exciting.

A low-fi compilation of whispery, lovelorn ballads — the record feels like the soundtrack for a coming-of-age flick. Comprised almost solely of O’s voice and an acoustic guitar, the album is largely reliant on its lyrics which, for the most part, have the same tone in which the words are sung — quiet and dull.

While the softness of O’s singing lends to the vulnerability of her lyrics, it also leads to the monotony present throughout the entirety of its fifteen songs. Her whispered words do make her sound sincere to an extent, but they also indicate an underlying insecurity. For someone who has made a career on powerful anthems, her timidity lends to the childishness of the album.

As far as the pacing is concerned, the 15 songs go by rather quickly. No song exceeds three minutes, but they seem to blend together into what could be mistaken as one 25 minute long song. Given that the album is so short, the tedium that is heard throughout is troubling.

The lack of variety in the instrumentation makes it difficult for any one song to break free of the record’s uniformity. The singular, soft guitar adds nothing to the album. Instead it becomes white noise behind O’s gently sung heartbreak. With the exception of a few sound effects, the accompanying acoustic guitar suffers from the same lack of imagination that her lyrics do.

Love songs are undoubtedly some of the most common things in music, regardless of genre.  “Crush Songs” generally fails to liven up its tired subject matter. This is most noticeable on “Native Korean Rock” where O’s musings on love, so straight forward yet so hackneyed, felt like an angst ridden teenager mulling over first love in their diary.

As trite as many of the songs may be, O’s strength lies in her genuineness. Everything from her lust to her disillusionment connects with the listener through the sorrowful intonation that colors her vocals. That being said, the emotional connection that O establishes cannot save the immaturity of her lyrics.

Only one song stood out in what was otherwise a lackluster set.  “Rapt” maintains the same plain instrumentation present on the entire album, but there is more strength in every aspect of the song. From O’s voice being more assertive, to the commanding nature of her lyrics, it is a feistier track in what is an otherwise incredibly uncertain album. Had there been a full band backing O, it could have realized its full potential to be fully-fledged tale of toxic love.

The only time where O’s background shines through, albeit subtly and briefly, is in the track “Body” where her screaming would be much more at home on a Yeah Yeah Yeahs record than on the mellow “Crush Songs.”

Had O experimented more musically, the entire album would have been a much more interesting listen. Instead there was an aura of missed opportunities. While it showcased a much softer side of O than many are used to seeing, it simply fell short of making any lasting impact.

“It’s an old familiar melody,” O sings on the closing track “Sing Along” Yes, it is indeed an old familiar melody that fades into its many predecessors, and will fail to make its mark in the inevitable slew of love songs to come.

Alexa Solis can be reached at