Monika Borzym – Girl Talk (2011)

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This is the album that big-voiced throwback singers like Amy Winehouse and Adele should have been making all along. As if to underscore the point, Monika Borzym even opens Girl Talk with a tune associated with Winehouse, “You Know I’m No Good.”

In fact, Borzym is, in many ways, the whole retro soul-sister package. Her vocals have all of Winehouse’s dark decadence, but with a lot more musicality and range. And, importantly, she also picks material far more equal to her talent than does Adele. If anything, though, Borzym has a style, chirpy and then purring, from further back: She’s like a next-gen Nancy Wilson — but Borzym never sticks too close to that freeze-dried caricature, either.

Careful listeners will recall that “Extraordinary Machine” was a Fiona Apple song, that “Appletree” was by Erykah Badu, that “Des Moines” is a Joni Mitchell track, that Bjork did “Possibly Maybe.” Borzym makes them her own, though, referencing their original splendors but staying true to her own voice along the way. Even on “Down Here Below” and “Thank You,” by Abbey Lincoln and Dido respectively, where the arrangements retain the general feel of the originals, each is enlivened by the Polish singer’s upbeat, but emotionally complex sensibility.

Borzym’s helped along, too, by producer Matt Pierson, who has couched her performance in suitably urbane, and quite varied settings — a sharply swinging jazz group (the sleek “Extraordinary Machine,” the boss bossa nova “American Boy,” the break-neck “Dry Cleaner from Des Moines”), these pillowy strings (notably on “Even So,” with its deft arrangement by Gil Goldstein), even a romantic old-world accordion (“You Know I’m No Good”).

So beguiling, however, is Borzym’s honey-smoked phrasing and impeccable timing that their efforts are often largely unnoticed. Whether bopping through the Fender-driven urban groove of “Appletree,” slowing for the devastatingly beautiful “Abololo,” or warming to the cacophonous sensuality of “Possibly Maybe,” she’s just a wonder.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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