I was on holiday recently, and, as is customary for me in new surroundings, found it difficult to sleep. Deciding to put on some music to aid my journey into slumberland, I scrolled through my i-Pod and found Katie Melua’s new album The House. About ten minutes later, I was deep in the Land of Nod. I repeated the process every night of the holiday, and never managed to get more than three songs in before drifting off. Not what Melua and producer William Orbit would like to hear, I’m sure, but I was grateful for it.
When I heard that Katie Melua, one of my favourite female vocalists of the last decade, and William Orbit, one of my favourite producers of the last decade, were teaming up, I was excited at the possibilities. Melua had got herself firmly wedged into easy-listening, coffee table-next-to-The Observer territory with her tried and tested formula over her past three albums, and Orbit, a man that had managed to make Madonna and All Saints sound good, was surely the man to lead her into more exciting territory. And he almost did it. The House must be one of the easier projects Orbit has worked on, for his creative input seems minimal, almost as if he was scared to take Melua too far away from her ‘sound’. When he does flex his muscles, however, he provides the highlights of the album, but these cases are all too few amongst an overall sound that often flirts with blandness. Vocally, Melua stretches herself more than on previous albums, sometimes straying into Kate Bush-esque wails, and he voice sounds beautiful amongst the delicate melodies.
Relaxing: yes; Nice to listen to: definitely; Brilliant: No- which is a shame, because it could and should have been.