Galia Arad - Ooh La Baby

Galia Arad is a woman living in New York City who happens to have an incredible talent for singing, song-writing and guitar playing, and she more than proves it on Ooh La Baby. Here she has produced a very competent concept album about a lovelorn female and her long-distance yearnings for an Irishman, and it effortlessly combines folk, rock and pop into a wonderfully listenable final product. It even gets the backing of the legendary Shane MacGowan, who features on two of the tracks. What better endorsement could you ask for?

The album opens with a track the almost encapsulates it - the wistful, dreamy I Must Have You. It is an immediate example of Arad's talent for this kind of ballad: her subtle, downplayed guitar interweaves with her lovely vocals, which are at times melodic and restrained but at times when she sings a line it can drift off into almost a whisper, as if she's thinking to herself about the person the song is for. A lot of the time she sings very much like Jacqui Abbott of The Beautiful South. It creates a wonderful effect, and there are plenty of songs like this on the album. You're Always There, Dear Friend and Don't Go, for instance. On each of these songs Arad plays to her talents; the music in the background is always accomplished and lovely-sounding, but it is downplayed to give focus to the lyrics and the vocals, showcasing what a talented songwriter Arad is. The lyrics themselves are deceptively simple and identifiable, and sometimes painful: "I just can't f**king sleep 'cause I can smell you in my sheets" on Don't Go, for example. But when combined with the music and Arad's vocals, the mood the combination creates lifts her lyrics to a higher, yet more accessible plane, where they seem to say so much more than they already do. Such is the case with all singer/songwriters worth their salt.

Where Arad really shines, though, in my opinion, is when she's having fun. She can write the above heartfelt ballads of love lost and desire, but she can also write a catchy, fun and clever pop song. On Better Than Bonnie, she admits to "writing silly songs about your girlfriend", but refusing to admit that the girlfriend is better for him than she would have been. It is one of the catchier moments on the album, and has a sense of self-affirmation to it without shouting too much about it. Another great moment is the wonderfully expletive Full of Sh*t, MacGowans second and lesser contribution to the album (he is credited with writing the intro to the song, and let's just say it's not one of his more eloquent moments...but it's doubtful it was intended to be). It's probably the rockiest and catchiest song on the album (narrowly beating Ooh La La ), containing the most sing-able chorus and some brilliant half-rhymes like 'pretend' and 'lent', and 'forget' and 'accent', and of course 'unfortunate' and 'sh*t'.

Perhaps the finest moment on the album though, is Four Leaf Lover Boy, which again shows Arad at her most playful. It's a clever, innocent (for the most part) pop song with clever lyrics and a well-produced backing, consistent with the whole album. This is also the track that features Shane MacGowan at his most recognisably incoherent. There's no doubting who it is, and even though you can't make out a word he's saying, it's a joy to hear him and Arad sing together. His presence though, even with his folk-royalty status, does nothing to detract from Galia, who is again excellent.

On the whole, this is an excellent record. It's just as brilliant to listen to with focus as it sounds when in the background, and Arad proves that she could hold her own with some of the singers that are charting highly now. All on the same record, it's playful, emotional, fun and heart-broken but most importantly an absolute joy to listen to. I can put it no better than Shane himself when he said "All she needs is a few good musicians and the right producer (like me) and she'll be as rich, powerful and free as me, and Joey and everything that's full of sh*t should be...NOW LISTEN!"

Check her out further at: http://www.galiaarad.typepad.com/