Myf Warhurst shines a spotlight on women who should be peppering your playlist. This week it’s gothic heartbreak and lush atmospherics courtesy of Geordie singer-songwriter Nadine Shah.
In just a few short years, South Tyneside-based singer-songwriter Nadine Shah has already been compared to the likes of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey. It’s an easy comparison to make, due to her penchant for dark subject matter, but in interviews she regularly laughs it off by saying that it’s only because of her “slicked-back hair and nose”.
Clearly, she’s got a good sense of humour about folk making such daunting comparisons. She even plays around with them. She paid homage to Saint Nick’s video for 15 Feet Of Pure White Snow with the vid for her latest single, Fool, from her second album Fast Food, filmed in an aesthetically similar 1970s venue with equally excellent audience dancing (Cave gets a mention in the lyrics, too).
There might, however, be something more to these seemingly lazy observations. Perhaps it’s in Shah’s forthright songwriting and her willingness to journey to dark places. Her first album, Love Your Dum and Mad, tackled mental illness following the suicide of two of her friends and her second, Fast Food, is a selection of very upfront and occasionally brutal portraits of people she has loved.
Keen to know more? Here’s some background: her Dad’s from Pakistan and her Mum’s Norwegian, which has little bearing on her songwriting other than she says she can sometimes hear musical references to the religious songs her Dad would play to her as a child. Shah started out as a jazz singer, then began writing her own material, and eventually people took notice. She also hooked up with some good people early, including long-time producer Ben Hillier, who’s worked on her debut EP and both of her albums – and has also notably lent a hand to albums by Depeche Mode, Blur, Doves and Elbow, among others.
But best of all, even though she’s drawn to the dark and brooding side of life and music, and her voice has a stark, soulful, howling quality that will rip open your ribcage to break your heart, there’s a solid sense of humour that’s well and truly intact through it all. Her merch T-shirts from a previous tour are hilarious, emblazoned with “Go Nads” on the front. I’m fairly certain that these will become the most collectable tour T-shirts of all time. I want one.
Fast Food is out now on Apollo / R&S Records
Nadine Shah’s UK tour kicks off on Friday at The Haunt, Brighton. For more info, visit: https://www.musicglue.com/nadine-shah/
She’s also doing a calendar of in-store events for Rough Trade.
Myfanwy Warhurst is a broadcaster at Double J radio (ABC Australia), TV presenter, Guardian columnist, music nut and general layabout.