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Katy Kirby’s Debut Is A Pantheon Of Unexpected Detail

On February 16, 2021

Every week we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Cool Dry Place, the debut album from Texas-bred, Nashville-based indie rocker Katy Kirby.

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“Can I come over? Is it too late? Would you keep me in a cool, dry place? With my head on your shoulders, not too much weight?,” Katy Kirby asks, trying not to impose in her warm head voice, her tone reminiscent of the way the steam off a mug of hot chamomile hits your nose at close proximity. Mingling with the sway of a steady, ambling bass and layers of balmy guitars, Kirby’s vocals fall to a whisper amid the background, demanding to be heard, but carefully managing to evade too much attention.

“I had a very fun habit of getting involved with someone and then getting cagey once they needed or just wanted me more than I was comfortable with. I thought this was very intelligent of me, being smart enough to know when to get out, before I got close enough to lose objectivity,” Kirby explained in a statement last year about “Cool Dry Place,” the title track off Kirby’s debut album, out this week via Keeled Scales. “I suppose it isn’t a terrible rule of thumb, considering that people are statistically dangerous. But this song was me beginning to see my own needs, in an embarrassingly transparent way. I too, am nothing more than a meatbag of vulnerabilities.”

While the song’s a raw, yet playful meditation around vulnerability and closeness within relationships, it gives a solid idea on what you might expect when you spin Cool Dry Place in full. In a recent interview with VMP Kirby explained the project was a result of years of trying, failing, experimenting, playing, and trusting (“With people with you, or behind you, who you really trust and enjoy, it’s very fun — the working out and scrapping process, rather than demoralizing”). The hard-won result of that process is a concise 28 minutes of rich, inventive indie rock that’s a pantheon of subtle surprises and gentle hooks that seed and grow like moss on the inside of your brain.

For an album that’s as melodic, natural, and, well, just feels so good, Cool, Dry Place is packed with vibrant pockets of jarring or unexpected detail in every corner: the bright horn lines that flirt through “Peppermint,” the way the build of fuzzy guitars jolt straight into a foggy field of organ sounds on “Traffic!,” the uncanny chopping and scrambling scrambling of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that kicks off “Secret Language”never to be returned to again, the clever and heady lyrics delivered with almost-hilarious ease at a breakneck speed. Every fresh listen seems to offer a different brilliant lyrical observation or sonic nugget, making Cool Dry Place among the most endearing and rewarding indie rock debuts to come out in recent memory.

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Amileah Sutliff

Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, editor and creative producer and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.

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