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KEELED SCALES

Katy Kirkby

Cool Dry Place

    Cool Dry Place is Katy Kirby’s long-awaited debut album. The 9 songs here are equal parts driving indie-pop and artful folk songwriting in the vein of Waxahatchee, Lucy Dacus, and Frankie Cosmos. Intimate, vulnerable lyrics give way to anthemic choruses, true earworm, and memorable vocal melodies. Katy Kirby is a Texas-based songwriter and indie rock practitioner with an affinity for unspoken rules, misunderstanding and boredom. She was born, raised and homeschooled by two ex-cheerleaders in small-town Texas and started singing in church, amidst the pasteurised-pop choruses of evangelical worship.

    Like many bible belt late-millennials, Katy grew up on a strict diet of this dependably uncool genre and accordingly, Cool Dry Place finds her dismantling it. “I can hear myself fighting that deeply internalized impulse to make things that are super pleasant or approachable,” she says. Though Katy hasn’t fully overcome the itch to please, it’s to a listener’s benefit. Instead of eradicating the pop sensibilities of her past, she warps them, lacing sugary hooks with sneaky rage, twisting affectionate tones into matter-of-fact reproach, and planting seemingly serene melodies with sonic jabs. The fun is in the clash. The nine tracks that make up Cool Dry Place are miscellaneous in subject (motherhood, late capitalism, disintegrating relationships) but unified by the angle from which they’re told: from a person re-learning to process life with intense attention. Each song is a catalogue of fragments, the number of segments in an orange or the cut of an obsessively-worn shirt, distilled into meditations on the bizarre and microscopic exchanges that make up modern life - a relationship splintering, an uncomfortable pause, an understanding finally found. These emotional dioramas are moderated by the angular storytelling that unites Gillian Welch and Phoebe Bridgers, a favour for the conventions of short fiction over confession.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Coke Bottle Clear.

    Buck Meek

    Two Saviors

      Big Thief’s Buck Meek announces his new solo album, Two Saviors, out January 15th on Keeled Scales. While his last album, 2018’s Buck Meek, is a yarn of blue-collar fairy tales and character driven narratives, Two Saviors emerges as a cathartic, naked confession of heartbreak, resiliency, and enchantment. The first word on Two Saviors is “pareidolia.” It is a word about recognising shapes where none were intended to exist - like searching for images in the clouds. It’s an uncommon word, with a beautiful sound, and serves as an apt guide through these new songs of Buck’s, which are themselves uncommon and beautiful, and which invite a deep, cloud-gaze state of attention.

      Two Saviors was recorded by producer and engineer Andrew Sarlo (who produced the first four Big Thief LPs), under his specific conditions: they make the album in New Orleans, during the hottest part of the year, spend no more than 7 days tracking, all live, on an 8-track tape machine with only dynamic microphones, and no headphones, not allowing the players to hear back any takes until the final day. The band, featuring Adam Brisbin (guitar), Mat Davidson (bass, pedal steel, fiddle), Austin Vaughn (drums), and Buck’s brother Dylan Meek (piano, organ), set up in a Victorian house one block from the Mississippi River and worked within these limitations, encouraging every recording to be imbued with the living, intuitive, and human energy of a first take.

      The rituals that led towards these songs are ones of pain and healing; the power felt through the songs lies in the fact that the pain is never plainly stated, never a note of anguish or resentment, no complaints about the feeling of pain. Pain is not weaponised on this record, but cared for, nurtured, and the songs become meditations on the reality of pain, conducted without resistance.

      Although the song’s narrator runs into several roadblocks in 'Second Sight' - like a pool spiked with turpentine - the chorus is uplifting, with sprightly guitar and upbeat lyrics: “I work for free // because love is all I need // yes I work for free // and love is all I need.” “The value in our world is built by the labour of love - a currency that accrues no debt, enriching both the giver and receiver,” says Buck. “This wealth provides the vitality needed to lift a hammer, to raise a roof, and to lay upon the eaves in silent awe of nature and civilization and the culmination of universal effort. Magic (the left hand of love?) arises from attention, and is accessible to all without prejudice. A creation from nothing, from some uncaused cause, some eternal unmoved mover."

      The songs on this album shine with this wisdom and are not ostentatious about it. This is true to Buck’s nature. He is recording life, consciously and unconsciously on a broad spectrum of planes. A new album from him is a gift, a chance to wonder about ways we could be seeing, recording.

      “At its core, Buck Meek feels like a country record, and not just because Meek’s native Texan twang stands at the forefront of every tune. The album has a mischievous spirit like the celebrated self-titled LP from cult-hit country star Willis Alan Ramsey.” Pitchfork // “Writing these songs was a process of creating talismans - little prayers and visions from within the constant flux of pain, healing, and discovery - that I could return to for perspective, and share with those in need.” Buck Meek.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      says: A collection of beautifully brittle ballads and Americana-tinged anthems beautifully conceived and delivered with the assured confidence of an artist at the peak of their skills. A beautiful outing for the increasingly essential Keeled Scales.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Clear smoke vinyl.

      Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

      Will Johnson

      El Capitán

        Number 1 Folk Album on Bandcamp the day it was released. Features Thor Harris of Swans, Sheartwater, Xiu Xiu. El Capitán is Will Johnson’s 7th studio album, released less than a year after Wire Mountain. While this is a collection of songs written on the road, they’re given a polished studio treatment, albeit a bit more subdued and restrained than Wire Mountain. El Capitán is Johnson’s second album with the carefully-curated Austin label Keeled Scales and his third recorded with Britton Beisenherz at his Austin studio Ramble Creek Recording. Here’s Will Johnson with how the album came together: This new record started years ago at a friend's dining room table in Portland, building up on long desert drives, in hotel bathrooms, at casino bars, and on these regular runs. Over years, the songs mortared themselves together into something I thought fit together. Some are now quite old, and a couple are pandemic-new. It feels like we're at the mercy of nature now more than ever, and the quietude of this patch of time made sense to document them and finally get them out. I took a hundred-dollar Stella guitar to my friend, Britton's, and we spent three days, distanced, building something. We let go of old habits, peeled things back, and tracked it all to a Tascam 388. We ate tacos, drank Tecate and found happiness in the act of moving again in the early summer heat. There's tape hiss, and there are imperfections. Thor Harris and Lindsey Verrill contributed beautifully from afar. 

        STAFF COMMENTS

        says: A beautiful rich juxtaposition of tender acoustic guitar, brittle campfire balladry and southern folk. Warm, intimate and enchanting.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Indies Only Dusklight coloured vinyl

        Jo Schornikow

        Secret Weapon

          Secret Weapon is Australian songwriter Jo Schornikow (keyboardist in Phosphorescent)'s stunning label debut. It's a devastatingly beautiful indie-pop album that eddies into dreamy nooks, while staying firmly rooted in strong melodies. It's a quiet record, adorned with subtle swells of synths and shimmering washes of guitars. Jo's calm, assured voice is that of a touring musician who's spent much of the past 10 years on the road in Phosphorescent and The Shivers and is now very much at home in this world. She's been the secret weapon to other songwriters, but now she's stepping out and sharing these gorgeous songs. While her partner Matthew Houck's band Phosphorescent carves a wide swath through cosmic country, Jo's songs thrive in a dusk-lit territory neighboring pop, shoegaze, and ambient experimental music. These are very much folk songs, but translated through the tools Jo Schornikow has at hand. 


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