By: Mark Ramzy & Gabriel Amaro
With the release of her debut album Cool Dry Place, Katy Kirby begins her career with a graceful triumph. Throughout 9 songs spanning 28 minutes, Kirby paints vivid images of where she’s from, who she is, and who she wants to be.
The Texas native was raised in a strict Christian household, and grew up surrounded by Worship music instead of popular music. However, a conservative upbringing was not going to define her worldview; she began expanding her horizons as a teenager, and continued to do so when she went off to college in Nashville, Tennessee. Kirby’s debut album Cool Dry Place plays like the soundtrack to her transition to adulthood – a transition made more extreme given a sense of missing out on a “normal” – or secular – childhood.
Questions about faith, insecurities, and personal relationships are some of the main themes on the album, which hovers between indie folk and pop music. Despite the clear themes and subjects, Kirby chooses to portray her thoughts with a bit of mystery and metaphor. For example, on Juniper, she compares her tale of personal growth with that of a resilient plant, singing “You don’t need a gardener to know // Which way it is the blossom’s got to float and // You don’t need anyone else to tell you // What’s gonna grow, you’re on your own // You’re on your own, you’re on your own.”
One of the greatest aspects of this album is Kirby’s effortless mixing of big pop songs with catchy choruses and somber acoustic tunes. On the intro track, Eyelids, Kirby sings calmly, giving the illusion that the whole album might be a mellow lullaby to accompany a float down a lazy river (hint: that’s not the case). In an interview with Vice, she spoke honestly about the process of writing the track, saying “That song gave me a lot of grief for like, four to six months, because I kept wanting to add something to it, like a chorus, but I just couldn’t come up with anything that felt appropriate. When I showed it to a friend, he very gently suggested that maybe it was already done. It took me a while to realize that you can just stop working on a song.”
On Traffic!, a song about a partner who’s stuck in their own world of issues, Kirby sings cheery words of encouragement: “High times, that’s right, red, white, black and blue // Nobody has it better than you.” Like all great songwriters, Katy writes lyrics that leave room for interpretation. The album’s final track, Fireman is a perfect example of this, as Kirby fantasizes about having a fireman as a boyfriend: “My baby is a fireman // And I never will get tired of him // Because he’s got, because he’s got // Three days on and three days off.” But is the song about an actual fireman she wants? Or perhaps a relationship with some clearly-defined boundaries? Or is she singing about a distant partner?
Overall, the album is filled with bright spots, and gives listeners a heaping spoonful of Katy Kirby as both a person and an artist. And as with any impressive debut, Cool Dry Place will linger in fans’ ears, causing them to wonder and speculate excitedly about what’s coming next. 🍑
To accompany this review, here is a creative piece inspired by the track Portals from Katy Kirby’s Cool Dry Place.
Written by @grapewrites via Instagram:
The concept of alternate and infinite realities has always been something that left me feeling uneasy. The idea that in the future there lies no certainty in anything but also bears possibility of everything is draining to think about. There’s nothing less comforting than the realization that you’re at the mercy of something bigger than you can imagine, and that one wrong move can steer you away from the reality you’ve dreamed of. I’ve begun to consider a dying love as a rite of passage, as with every heartbreak and love lost I am different as I once was. Have I matured or only become more naive? I do not know. This future I’ve painted for myself now is more vivid than any other before. Its strokes are meticulous and detailed, with vibrant colors that I had never had the confidence to use. Unlike my past works, which have faded and become unrecognizable, this future seems to have been imagined to last as if I could see through time. It’s a painting of you and I in a quiet home, with sunlight peeking through kitchen blinds from which you can see fields of green stretching for acres. I’m scared to say that I’ve become comfortable with my latest work, it’s a masterpiece. How disappointed will I be if this dream fails to come to life? If we peel apart will we be stronger than we were before, or will we live for the rest of our days reminiscing about our temporary whole? These are all questions that I now know the answer to. Our love is something I’ll never forget, and just as in the past I have changed. I’ve given up painting. My masterpiece would never be succeeded, so I just admire its perfection behind a layer of dust. I can’t help but wonder what the alternate reality inside the painting is like, but I’ll never know. We weren’t boxes, doors, or borders. We were portals for each other and ourselves. And no matter how badly I wanted to choose our reality, it was out of our control from the beginning.