Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Resurrection Of Kate Miller-Heidke

Kate Miller-Heidke first featured on this blog way back in 2007 and you can tell from the tone of that rather ambivalent post that I wasn't exactly about to start a fanclub in her honour. I liked "Words" but feared Kate might be a bit too quirky for my trashy taste. Those suspicions were confirmed when I heard her debut album, which rivals Florence & The Machine's "Lungs" as the most desperate attempt I've ever heard to channel Kate Bush. I was so turned off that I didn't even bother checking out her second album when it was released last year despite enjoying the surprisingly poptastic lead single. The follow up caught my attention but even the excellent "Caught In A Crowd" couldn't shake me out of my Kate hating ways. It was going to take something extraordinary to change my mind and, happily, that's exactly what "The Last Day On Earth" delivers.

It's rather uncouth that such a talented singer owes her commercial breakthrough to a Neighbours commercial but like most of the rest of Australia that's how I first heard "The Last Day On Earth". That old ploy has been used a thousand times in the past but this is the only time I've got goosebumps from hearing a twenty second clip and immediately downloaded the song from iTunes. Kate has hit a once in a career home run with "The Last Day On Earth". It's like she's overcome her need to be eccentric and finally found her true voice. The subtlety of the track is what makes it so stunning. There's no over the top emoting or vocal gymnastics. Just some very simple piano and Kate's starkly beautiful lyrics. I'm extremely pleased to see the song sitting at number 2 on Australian iTunes and wouldn't be surprised if it's a future number 1 hit. There isn't an official video yet and it doesn't need one. I implore Kate to use this stunning fan made video clip (below) instead. It's utterly brilliant and completely epic. Can this genius please turn his attention to Dannii next?


John said...

You're going to get a reputation if you keep playing tastemaker like this! Great track, even if the video is a bit cheap.

Mike said...

The video is fan made! And I think it's stunning. Love the romantic mushroom clouds and nuclear explosions!

tommie said...

Poor Kate Bush aka my personal Goddess. All these wannabe's are bringing shame to her good name.

That song is nice though.

Stewie Blewett said...

Mike, you're partly right, and you're not alone in not being able to instantly get a handle on this woman's work. "Last Day On Earth" is a stunning song, and KMH's major label marketing has emphasized the annoyingly quirky, and pushed some of her more hyperactive pop songs. But anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with her work over the years knows that her repertoire includes a wide variety of styles, including melodic folk-influenced songs that are miles away from "Can't Shake It" or "Words", plus everything in between. Her radio breakthrough was "Space They Cannot Touch", a gentle, romantic love song that people play at their weddings. And anyone who hears anything resembling Kate Bush in KMH songs like that must be thinking of a different Kate Bush.

Ro Ro said...

Wow i love her!!! Curiouser is one of my fave albums of 2008. i was hoping "The One Thing I Know" would be a single i find myself listening to it over and over. Kate Bush? i just dont hear it. This song is cute and the cover art is amazing! its about time u wrote some new stuff on this diva.

camdesus said...

I don't know where to begin. I think you are way off the mark with your take on who Kate is and what she was trying to achieve with her music.

Have you ever actually listened to Kate Bush?

I think you're just hearing two soprano range singers (quite rare in pop) and assuming they are related in some way.

The music that was recorded on the first album was a collection of songs that had been amassed over two or three years of touring before she was signed to a label and needed to deliver an album. It's a proper work of art, and not some market-driven shit.

Also, any "need to be eccentric" is just the marketing department of a large record label trying to find a niche for an artist they are unable to categorize neatly.

Which seems to be a problem you have - a need to label an artist who is diverse, contradictory and multi-faceted. All the things you would want from a true artist.

Having said all that, I'm happy you have finally found a lense through which you can look at her work and allow yourself to be moved by it without judging it intellectually first.

Perhaps there's a lesson in there. Music is about feeling and not thinking and judging.

John said...

It appears that the Kate fans have found you, Mike, and they are not pleased with the fact that people can hear different things in the same pieces of music.

Petro said...

I adore Kate, but only got into her this year when I borrowed my friend's "Curiouser" album. It's a such an eccentric little pop album with some beautiful melodic stuff and upbeat tracks as well. I've gone and bought her debut "Little Eve" as well - very different to her latest, it's more acoustic-folky pop, so might not be everyone's cup of tea here. But I love that as well.

Saw her live (which was brilliant) and got to meet her after the show. I love her outspokeness about the whole Australian Idol thing (the fact she's signed to Idol label SonyBMG especially!).


"You should go on Australian Idol, don't worry if you don't look like a supermodel, they're even letting fatties on there now!"

Petro said...

Btw, at the end of the video, Kate reveals the first album she ever bought - how brilliant!

Mike said...

Well, I like these Kate fans because unlike the Madonna trolls they actually seem literate and intelligent!

I guess I should explain the Kate Bush comparison because it was a bit lazy. "Little Eve" - to my ears - was just another female vocalist singing largely obtuse lyrics in an annoyingly high pitch, trying to act as crazy as possible. Which is kind of what I make of Kate Bush's later material. Now I'm really gonna get it!

However, I don't get that same vibe with the singles from her latest album and the emphasis seems to be more on melodies and song structure than trying to be cool - hideous "Curiouser" album cover aside.

Strange that Stewie mentions "Space They Cannot Touch" because that's one of only two songs from "Little Eve" that I bothered putting on my Ipod. Maybe I just prefer the stripped back KMH.

And Camdesus, I'm not trying to label Kate. I just don't click with her eccentric side, which strikes me as forced and manufactured.

LOL - this is turning into an essay!

Petro, thanks for the link but that performance sums up everything I don't like about Kate. She shouldn't be so judgemental. Kate would still be gigging at the Hopetoun if Sony didn't hook up TV commercials and shove her down everyone's throat.

That said - I love that her first purhcase was Kylie!

Anonymous said...

Whoa, what's with all the Kate-hate?

Kate Bush was and is a tremendous songwriter, performer and producer who influenced many after her (including Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Outkast, Bjork and so on). Her work has been inventive, groundbreaking, fearlessly emotional, occasionally humorous and always well-made. In that respect, it DOES in fact remind me of the work of Kate Miller-Heidke, which is hardly an insult to either.

Of course there are differences between them, but comparing and contrasting them is not "just lazy" fact, I find the KMH has more in common musically with KB than she does with her stated idols (Tori Amos, Queen and Cyndi Lauper). I also see more similarity to KB's persona and light touch than any of those three.

If you are a fan of one, you'd do well to go have a listen to the other, in my opinion. I am recently, devotedly a fan of both!

(And an aside to Mike...though I defend your right to compare them...I don't think you've listened to Kate Bush's later work at all...she toned the quirky DOWN, not UP).

Guess I have to sign "anonymous, but I'm actually Robb :)