There was a seven year gap between Dirty Little Secret, Katharine Whalen's sophomore release, and her debut. Perhaps not surprisingly then, the two albums are worlds apart stylistically with the only constant being the singer's retro vocals. She has abandoned the smoky, Billie Holiday style that was a logical extension of her work with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, for a lounge/spy music/'60s avant-pop that suits her just as well and arguably better. Although she gets top billing on the front cover, the success of the album should go equally to David Sale (ex-Camus). He writes or co-writes the songs, plays every instrument, engineered all but two tracks, and is clearly the driving force behind the project. Whalen is in fine voice, but it's the production that shares and often dominates the spotlight. These heavily overdubbed songs exude a chilly, frisky, occasionally dreamy go-go quality, somewhere between trip-hop, Vegas jazz, and Austin Powers. The brassy bongo-driven attack of the opening, "The Funnest Game," makes it sound like it came off the soundtrack of a Sean Connery era James Bond flick. Instruments fade in and out during tunes and the programmed drums bring a contemporary feel, even as a song such as "Meet Me by the Fire" recalls girl group aesthetics. Just when you think you've got the album figured out, it shifts direction, eluding your grasp but beckoning you back for another spin. "The Garden" is built on tropical percussion, wandering trumpet, and staccato keyboards as Whalen double-tracks vocals in a bizarre but sexy moan. "Want You Back" imagines a Peggy Lee, Herb Alpert, and John Barry mash-up and the techno beat, mariachi trumpets, and '60s drama of "In the Night" is both winsome and vivid. Dirty Little Secret often seems like the soundtrack to some imaginary '60s B-movie, a bit schlocky and loungy but ultimately cool. It doesn't all work because sometimes these songs take a few too many detours, but it sounds like little else and scores on originality even when Whalen and Sale juggle a few too many creative balls.
Performance CreditsKatharine Whalen Primary Artist,Vocals
David Sale Multi Instruments
Technical CreditsJohn Plymale Engineer
Joe Tullos Composer
Lane Wurster Art Direction
Katharine Whalen Composer
Catherine Carpentieri Executive Producer
Mark Carpentieri Executive Producer
Phillip Dwyer Graphic Design
David Sale Composer,Producer,Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dirty Little Secret based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Eschewing the hot-jazz of her former combo, Squirrel Nut Zippers, vocalist Katharine Whalen brings her quirky singing style to an equally quirky modern context. Unlike her 1999 Jazz Squad outing, Whalen's hooked up with writer and multi-instrumentalist David Sale for a funky, trip-hop excursion into sounds that bounce like an amped-up version of Portishead's "Dummy." The production compellingly syncopates instrumental lines, multilayered background vocals and danceable tempos beneath Whalen's vocals. There's an undercurrent of exotica, occasionally rises to the fore such for the percussive "The Garden" and brass-lined "Want You Back." Whalen's voice still has the Billie Holiday edge of her SQN releases, but the impact is completely different in this most surprising and inventive context. 3-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2006 redtunictroll at hotmail dot com]
Unlike so many records these days that just drone on endlessly after the one or two hits, "Dirty little secrets" moves through many styles effortlessly. There are so many interesting musical parts that it really takes many listens to get them all. My favorite song is the last one! Blur. Now how many records can you say that about, except the Beatles of course. Jazz purists might sulk though. I would warn them off. But especially if you come to this without any preconceived notions, this is a fantastic music ride.