Following her last album, 2010’s The House, produced by electronic producer William Orbit, Katie Melua comes back with her longtime producer Mike Batt for her fifth record Secret Symphony which returns her to her traditional blues and jazz sound. This album consists of a mix of originals and covers with the new songs written by either Batt or Melua with several songs by both. Songs written by others include a covers of Ron Sexsmith‘s Gold In Them Hills, Moonshine by Travis‘ Francis Healy and a cover of the 1920s blues standard Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out.
With Secret Symphony, you get Katie’s usual touch of dreamy music with delicate vocals and gentle melodies, ultimately making it a safe album. Once she took the ambitious route of collaborating with a known producer outside of her safe zone on The House, going back to musical comfort seems uneventful. There’s little surprising or even exciting on the record, even if there are pleasing moments such as her pleasant version of Gold In Them Hills and the Batt-penned breakup-questioning track The Bit That I Don’t Get, where Katie captures the sense of yearning to a T. But other songs, like All Over The World and The Cry Of The Lone Wolf, feel uninspired with nothing to offer.
Other than The Bit That I Don’t Get, a standout track comes with Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out, where Katie shows off her vocals in ways the album’s other songs aren’t quite able to. It’s conservatively sassy, albeit still safe but offers a pleasant interlude in the middle of the record. Meanwhile, on The Walls Of The World, the song takes the expected dreamy approach in the music where it could have been perfected in a simpler fashion with just guitars and slide, opting for a slightly country-inspired outtake, if only to offer a new perspective.
Katie Melua is always a delightful singer who never disappoints in her performances. The question that remains is what she can do after perfecting the sound that made her famous in the first place without completely giving it up. On Secret Symphony, there is nothing that she hasn’t already accomplished and is essentially confirming her abilities, even though there is sure to be something hidden…waiting to be explored.
1. Gold In Them Hills
2. Better Than A Dream
3. The Bit That I Don’t Get
5. Forgetting All My Troubles
6. All Over The World
7. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
8. The Cry Of The Lone Wolf
10. The Walls Of The World
11. Secret Symphony