CD Review of A Fine Mess by Kate Voegele
Kate Voegele: A Fine Mess
Recommended if you like
Michelle Branch, Anna Nalick, Vanessa Carlton
Label
Interscope
Kate Voegele: A Fine Mess

Reviewed by Alexzandra Hackford

H
aving risen from MySpace roots, singer/songwriter Kate Voegele has made a name for herself in a relatively short amount of time. Her second full-length album, A Fine Mess is an emotional roller coaster ride through the depths of Voegele’s psyche. This time around Voegele tackles the usual relationship drama on tracks like "Inside Out" and "Who You Are without Me" and reinforces the record with more complex themes like those found on "Sweet Silver Lining" and "Angel."

Although A Fine Mess peaked at No. 5 on both the Top Digital Album chart and Top Modern Rock Albums chart, Voegele has yet to make any major waves on radio. Her delicate, almost childish vocals are front and center on Mess, unlike her last record where layers of guitar, synths and keys hide any character-building imperfections. First single, "99 Times" is carefully crafted, with pulsating strings and an unfortunately repetitive hook where Voegele definitely sounds more mature, but the song itself is lackluster.

One of the most polished songs on Mess is "Who You Are without Me." It’s more likable than "99 times," the melody is solid, and Voegele’s voice sounds stronger with a slight country twang that leaves her somewhere on the singer/songwriter spectrum between Michelle Branch, Anna Nalick and Jessica Andrews.

Voegele unleashes a sassier, sexier side on "Playing with My Heart," an infectious up-tempo song with a carefree, dance-y beat that makes the song a real earworm. The following track, "Manhattan from the Sky" spawned the album’s title, and finds Voegele comparing a relationship to the streets of New York City. On the chorus she croons, "You are my Manhattan from the sky / You look so neat and tidy when I’m way up high / But I know your streets are lined with a fine mess inside / I wanna, come down and walk around your mind."

The lyrics are incredibly cheesy, and the tune sounds like the fraternal twin of Vanessa Carlton’s "A Thousand Miles," but it’s fairly catchy, and is at least an original idea. "Manhattan from the Sky" is followed by another standout, "Talkin’ Smooth." It showcases Voegele’s vocals perfectly with that same bluesy, country swing as "Who You Are without Me," and there’s no cheese anywhere in sight. Voegele’s attitude comes through when she moans, "I don’t mean to presume that / You don’t love me like you say you do but you’re / gonna have to prove that you do, you’re not just talkin’ smooth."

The biggest disappointment on Mess is "Lift Me Up." Surprising to say the least, the album’s first real ballad sounds more like something you’d hear on Christian radio, and its four-minute playing time is way longer than necessary. The song feels almost out of place on the record, and uncharacteristic of Voegele. She wraps things up with a slew of ballads, including the most radio-friendly single Voegele has ever been behind. "Say Anything" sounds like it could have been on the new Kelly Clarkson record, and Voegele pulls off the vocal effortlessly. The alternative edge suits her well, and perhaps if she had filled Mess with more power ballads like "Say Anything," it would have been easier to compete with chart toppers like Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus.

Overall, A Fine Mess is generally likeable. It’s catchy, and fun, carefree and optimistic, but anyone who’s not a die-hard pop fan will probably get bored before the second track. And although Mess is a decent record, it offers up little that could compete with singles like The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" or Kelly Clarkson’s "I Do Not Hook Up." The lyrics are too bland, and even though a few tracks showcase Voegele’s talent fabulously, others seem out of place, making Mess feel disconnected at time. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of female singer/songwriters, or enjoyed Voegele’s first album and need a second helping, check out A Fine Mess.

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