Dirty Little Secret
The Squirrel Nut Zippers popularity was always vague mystifying until you realized the audience for their roaring twenties jazz were the same frat boys who adored drinking to it the first time around. In the middle of the whole SNZ thing, was actual talent in the form of Katharine Whalen, whose Billie Holiday-like voice went on to do an out of focus, jazzy first solo record with her band, the Jazz Squad. Fortunately, Whalen’s dumped the horns, and now seven years after that first solo record is back wandering through this multi-hued record that’s sure to wrinkle the noses of those who liked her jazz persona. Whalen’s now gone experimental, here changing styles with every track, all the way singing over settings assembled by David Sale (of Camus) who plays every instrument, layered the samples and composed all the music. Opening with the crashing percussion and vaguely dance beat of, “The Funniest Game,” which is both a bold attempt at a modern sensibility and hopeless diva pop, this record moves through straightforward songs like the title track, the sinuous “Angel,” the Latin-tinged “Want You Back” and “Long” which melds Whalen’s old jazz impulses to a funky-lite piano tune that like everything else here, Sale has tricked out with studio sounds and textures. The track that’s sure to be the fall line on this record is “You-Who,” which makes a convincing if lightweight case that Whalen’s secret is she aspires never to be pigeon-holed again.