Katy Kirby : Blue Raspberry

Katy Kirby Blue Raspberry review

Songwriters have drawn from their own lives as a way to vent their feelings for centuries, some singers opting to tell their tales in the third person, serving as an omniscient narrator recounting the experiences of two characters seen from afar. Others proclaim their pain from a first-person perspective, and for a sizable subset, their “I” sings directly toward a “you” who either accepts or rejects their love. Still, it takes a particular talent to express universal emotions in a way that makes each listener feel as if the words apply to their personal situation. 

Katy Kirby approaches that artistic conundrum by choosing direct lyricism with poetic flair. On her sophomore full-length, Blue Raspberry, she stands firmly in a classic singer/songwriter tradition while incorporating sublime swatches of indie-folk and pop. Her first album for Anti- delivers piano-first instrumentation, diaristic storytelling, and a plaintive alto with heaps of authenticity. While keys, bass, and drums anchor the music, jazzy guitar fills and acoustic strumming offer subtle and welcome textural contrasts.

Think of it as a combination of Regina Spektor’s quirky affect, Vanessa Carlton’s upbeat verve, and Julien Baker’s inconsolable depths. Put another way, Kirby’s work overflows with a bittersweet romanticism. The eleven songs on the project detail her experiences in her first long-term queer relationship. This approach lends an intense relatability to the tunes, particularly in how she readily discusses the multifaceted nature of modern love. 

“Cubic Zirconia” is a terrific, mid-tempo paean to those relationships that shine brightly but aren’t meant to last forever. Kirby intones that sentiment with the lines, “You’re the prettiest mermaid in the souvenir shop, but if you’re coming home this late, you know you’d better be drunk.” On “Wait Listen,” she shares an introspective dirge bemoaning terrible choices in and out of the bedroom. Knowing chagrin abounds with lyrics like, “She called me a feast when we kissed in her bedroom, then she apologized for biting in/‘I hope you’re into that.’

With “Alexandria,” we get even more insight into the details of these relationships, complete with thick, melancholy piano chords. Rueful regret comes to the fore as she sings, “Baby, you’re off the hook for every promise you couldn’t keep.” The title track serves up passionate memories of what attracted her to her partner in the first place, as piano, acoustic guitar, and haunting background vocals swirl around. Few people can conjure up woebegone sentiments such as, “Her eyes burn white as styrofoam, right into me/She’s sugarcane split open/She’s a jaw about to sing.”

Blue Raspberry offers a deft blend of piano-pop and modern Americana that relishes its resonant emotional core. In fact, the strength of the album lies in how Kirby embraces tropes of love and loss with aplomb. She balances her keen capacity for melody, mood, and tempo with a relatable sensuality that’s equal parts yearning and intense reflection. We get clear descriptions and robust turns of phrase that showcase her fearlessness as a songwriter rather than coy metaphors. Few feelings are off-limits in this exploration of raw emotions, painful wounds, and joyful memories.

Label: Anti-

Year: 2024

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