Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Katy Kirby Blue Raspberry


Katy Kirby didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but her debut Cool Dry Place was the sort of album that snuck up on you. When I wrote about it for Album Of The Week in 2021, I made sure to note that it might take a few listens to really sink in. I used words like unhurried and sparse, and I said that those qualities only made it feel all the more special. Kirby’s subtlety doesn’t draw attention to itself, but Cool Dry Place kept finding the right ears. Following its release, she opened for Waxahatchee and Julia Jacklin and for Alex G, whose “Bad Man” Kirby managed to twist into her own off-kilter rollick. She made the label jump from Keeled Scales to ANTI-, and Cool Dry Place started to solidify itself into what it really is: a promising introduction to an immensely talented songwriter.

So I should have known better when an initial pass at Blue Raspberry left me a little cold. Kirby’s sophomore album lacks a song like “Traffic!,” whose stop-start glitchiness lended her songwriting a beguiling edge, or “Secret Language,” which used familiar Leonard Cohen phrasing to introduce Kirby’s own musings. But with each subsequent Blue Raspberry single, all of which I liked out of context, I got the nagging feeling that I was missing out. And so back to Blue Raspberry I went, with renewed vigor and focus. I admit part of my reluctance might be chalked up to the proliferation of artists out there right now making music that sounds kind of like this. It can be hard to suss out what’s really worth hanging onto long enough. And indeed, like its predecessor, Blue Raspberry might take a couple spins to unlock, but it is more than worth the effort.

For her Cool Dry Place follow-up, Kirby primarily worked with the same crew as her debut, producers Alberto Sewald and Logan Chung. Together, they made an album that hangs together as a lovely cohesive whole; the quirks of her first LP give way to a more considered sonic palette, which is less prickly and more full — orchestral arrangements, burbling bass lines, guitars that pluck and quiver. Two albums that Kirby cited as inspirations this time around are Andy Shauf’s The Party, which is slinking and loungey, and Lomelda’s Hannah, sentimental and intimate. You can hear both of those influences on a track like “Redemption Arc,” which opens the album with a hushed piano creak but scales up to a refrain that’s exquisitely satisfying, a rush of keys and strings which is simply breathtaking.

Part of what sets Kirby apart is the language she uses, the way words slip off her tongue in syllables almost too big for the songs that contain them. As a narrator, Kirby is clever and knows it. Take this passage, from the aforementioned opener:

It comes with the territory
Sweet pastoral imagery but
It’s just not polite to call me terra incognita

You misspelled apology
You ended it with I and E
Diminutive contrition
But I still know what you mean

Kirby creates introverted folk-rock music, internal monologues that point out other people’s contradictions and, of course, her own. She makes you want to pore over the lyric sheet, see where she picks up the tangled end of another idea. I love the way she frames things, lets the listener fill in the rest of a punchline. On “Party Of The Century”: “You think it’s ethically suspicious to bring someone into a world like this/ But you’ve got the best smile anyone could ask to inherit/ And baby, I know you’re so good with kids.”

Cool Dry Place was largely about communication — it used the lens of Kirby’s religious upbringing to reflect her own struggles with finding the right words to say what she feels. Blue Raspberry finds her taking action on those feelings and stumbling into new struggles. Many of the songs deal with the development and eventual dissolution of Kirby’s first queer relationship. The songs are lusty and wry and also gutting. “She called me a feast when we kissed up in her bedroom/ Then she apologized for biting in/ ‘I hope you’re into that,'” she sings on “Wait Listen.” “So I turned off my location/ Let her fuck me like you thought you did/ I remember every minute.”

Throughout the album, Kirby returns to some of the same phrases, most prevalently “cubic zirconia,” the lab-created alternative that mimics the look of real diamond. On the track titled the same, Kirby finds beauty in the artificial: “Baby, no one can tell/ When they’re up against your throat/ You know they shine just as well.” She has an appreciation for the make-believe — like blue raspberry, a made-up flavor that has no real-life analog but which she found so alluring she named her second album after it: “I don’t care if whatever you are is found in nature/ You hold the patent for that flavor.” What one might dismiss at first glance, she sees something worth taking another look at — sort of like her new album, which rewards patience and an open heart.

Blue Raspberry is out 1/26 via ANTI-.

Other albums of note out this week:
• The Smile’s Wall Of Eyes
• Willi Carlisle’s Critterland
• Ty Segall’s Three Bells
• Future Islands’ People Who Aren’t There Anymore
• Benny The Butcher’s EVERYBODY CAN’T GO
• Torres’ What an enormous room
• Courting’s New Last Name
• Sarah Jarosz’s Polaroid Lovers
• Gruff Rhys’ Sadness Sets Me Free
• Craig Wedren’s The Dream Dreaming
• Philip Glass’ Philip Glass Solo
• Fabiano do Nascimento & Sam Gendel’s The Room
• Astrid Sonne’s Great Doubt
• Chicano Batman’s Notebook Fantasy
• Brad stank’s In The Midst Of You
• Quarters Of Change’s Portraits
• Office Dog’s Spiel
• Kula Shaker’s Natural Magick
• Tom Odell’s Black Friday
• Charles Esten’s Love Ain’t Pretty
• Eye Flys’ Eye Flys
• Any Other’s stillness, stop: you have a right to remember
• The Umbrellas’s Fairweather Friend
• Lucifer’s Lucifer V
• Angry Blackmen’s The Legend Of ABM
• Jim Kweskin’s Never Too Late
• Conner Smith’s Smoky Mountains
• nehan’s an evening with nehan
• Dead Poet Society’s Fission
• Masta Ace & Marco Molo’s Richmond Hill
• Meth Math’s Chupetones
• Tapir!’s The Pilgrim, Their God And The King Of My Decrepit Mountain
• Randall King’s Into The Neon
• Knoll’s As Spoken
• Madder Mortem’s Old Eyes, New Heart
• Goth Babe’s Lola
• Kevin Gates’ The Ceremony
• Bad Gyal’s La Joia
• Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ Dark Rainbow
• James Arthur’s Bitter Sweet Love
• Static-X’s Project: Regeneration Vol. 2
• Nasti’s People Problem
• Philantrope’s Walking Dreams 2
• (G)I-DLE’s 2
• Dermabrasion’s Pain Behaviour
• Lyrical Lemonade’s ALL IS YELLOW compilation
• Colin Newman’s Bastard deluxe reissue
• Anna Calvi’s Peaky Blinders: Season 5 & 6 (Original Score)
• Militarie Gun’s Life Under The Sun EP
• DāM-FunK’s Out The Way EP
• Finnoguns Wake’s Stay Young EP
• They Hate Change’s Wish You Were Here… EP
• Lola Wild’s Get Up EP
• BIB’s Biblical EP
• 86TVs’s You Don’t Have To Be Yourself Right Now EP
• Emily Yacina’s “Trick Of The Light” & “Nothing Lasts” 7″

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