We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

Kate Nash became a surprise pop star last summer in England, where Made of Bricks debuted at the top of the charts. That made the 20-year-old singer popular enough to inspire a backlash: A group called LDN Is a Victim released a song of the same name parodying her first single, “Caroline’s a Victim,” mocking Nash for singing in a cockney accent despite her upper-crust upbringing. (She was raised in Harrow, an affluent London borough.) She’ll likely get a pass for that in the States, where Made of Bricks is finally getting a release: Most Americans can’t even identify a cockney accent, and besides, pop stars reinventing themselves over here is practically de rigueur, from Bob Dylan to Ice Cube to the Strokes. What U.S. critics may do is pit Nash against Lily Allen—another target of LDN’s—but their similarities are pretty superficial. Both are cheeky, attractive, talented singer-songwriters with a knack for angsty, even spiteful lyrics, but their debut albums have little in common. Allen’s Alright, Still is a glossy, singles-oriented disc full of pop-influenced grime and ska songs, while Made of Bricks is a wildly ambitious effort that features varied tempos, tones, and genres. Nash approaches Joanna Newsom’s degree of whimsy on songs like “Mariella,” about a defiant young girl who glues her lips together to spite her mother, who wants her to wear “some pink and pearls.” Over a slow, dour piano riff, she sings, “She marched to her wardrobe and threw away the color/Because wearing black looks mysterious, but it didn’t impress her mother.” Two minutes in, the pace picks up, hand claps come in, and Nash sings ecstatically: “I’m never ever ever ever ever ever ever gonna unglue my lips from being together. Ha ha ha ha.” “Shit Song,” another highlight, is built on an ’80s electro beat and Nash’s wildly vacillating emotions (which, come to think of it, are perfectly appropriate for a 20-year-old): “Darling don’t give me shit, ’cause I know that you’re full of it,” she sings, before conceding, “You could come ’round mine, we could drink some wine in the summertime, it could be quite nice.” The delightful hook of the first single, “Foundations,” is anchored by piano, a simple drum-machine beat, and acoustic guitar, with its melody perfectly complementing Nash’s assertive-yet-vulnerable voice. That flexibility is her great talent: She’s able to make her songs sound spontaneous, even improvised, and she switches styles effortlessly. She’ll belt out Björk-inspired wails on songs like “Mouthwash” then turn intimate on a song like “Nicest Thing.” Nash’s immaturity occasionally creeps through: The opening “Play” comes off as a fairly creepy come-on, and “Dickhead” is an acoustic rebuke that uses its titular word about 25 times too many. But more often than not, Made of Bricks is as tough as its name, placing Nash alongside Amy Winehouse and Mike Skinner among the best English musical imports of the last few years