Album Review : Katie Melua’s ‘Secret Symphony’

It would be an understatement to describe Katie Melua’s instantly recognizable and flawless voice as just ‘exquisite’. Haunting, melancholic, controlled, sensual, distinct and definitely second to none, Katie’s lush vocals are the single most important reason I’ve brought every album that she’s released ever since she slayed the charts with her gem of a début album ‘Call Off The Search‘ in 2003. Over the past decade, Katie’s followed the same blueprint while releasing an album, without much of a sonic departure from the pitch-perfect sounds of her 2003 début. And the results have been nothing short of phenomenal, if sales of her 4 studio albums are anything to go by.

Katie Melua returns with her 5th studio album ‘Secret Symphony‘ (released on the 5th of March, 2012), her first album after 2010’s highly underrated ‘The House‘. Katie keeps it simple this time around, covering a few classics as well as adding a handful of new creations, teaming up with orchestrator and conductor Mike Batt to create an album packed with defiant orchestral arrangements over slow-burning balladry infused with steady elements of jazz. And it’s Katie’s subtle yet triumphant vocals that deliver yet again.

The opening track, a cover of Canadian singer Ron Sexsmith’s ‘Gold In Them Hills‘, that was used last year as a part of the German TV series KuschelRock , is undoubtedly my fave track on the album. And I have to say I love Katie’s stripped down heart-felt version more than the original.

Better Than A Dream‘ is the official lead single from the album, and Katie’s velvety vocals woven seamlessly with the sophisticated instrumentation easily makes this one a stand-out track.

The fact that Katie’s matured lyrically as well as vocally is evident on the self-penned ‘Forgetting All My Troubles‘. The melancholy on this one is a throwback to her earlier sounds on classics like ‘Piece By Piece‘ or ‘Closest Thing To Crazy‘.

The two other classics that Katie tackles effortlessly are Françoise Hardy’s ‘All Over the World‘ and Francis Healy’s ‘Moonshine‘, delivering her signature smoky vocals on both. The steady mix of classics as well as the handful of new songs (‘The Cry Of The Lone Wolf‘, ‘Secret Symphony‘) highlight Katie’s musical style and vocal prowess. It’s not too diverse from what she’s already done, rather she’s treading cautiously on safe territory, and it would be interesting to see Katie push the envelope as an artist by stepping out of her comfort zone. But as of now, I’m not complaining, cause this is an album that I’ve enjoyed immensely, and I’d rather not see Katie trade her signature style for anything else.

If you’ve been a fan of Katie’s earlier albums like ‘Call Off The Search‘ or ‘Piece By Piece‘, this album is for you. In case you’re in the mood for some easy listening music that soothes you, you might want to give the album a try. Superbly crafted, yet stripped down, this album’s a return to form by Katie, especially after a slightly edgier sound on her 2010 album ‘The House‘. The music’s gentle and old-fashioned, and that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most about this album. It’s a celebration of the phenomenal voice of a truly gifted musician, and easily one of my fave albums of 2012.