Album Review: Katie Dey – “mydata”

Posted: by The Editor

Katie Dey has become a master of her craft since beginning to release music back in 2015. Her earliest works found her shredding and contorting her voice, grafting it into the instrumentation. While she’s always had an innate grasp of melody, her prior use of it was to give structure to otherwise abstract creations, rather than to create infectious hooks.

On her latest album, mydata, we find two opposing forces working in tandem. Dey pits dark, glitched-out pop against transcendental, fairytale strings. The result is a record that feels uncomfortable and hauntingly real; it sounds like Carly Rae Jepsen if she were crawling out of a TV screen like the girl from The Ring. The limits inherent in what screens can do is a thread that weaves throughout the work. Dey has said that mydata is about online relationships and believes they are just as real as those formed in person.

Compartmentalizing experience is one of the internet’s greatest powers, and it’s important to remember that the memories made online are still experiences. Commentary on the online world is a topic often beaten to death, but Dey breathes life and rich humanity into it.

The lead single “happiness,” is as full of adoration as it is full of longing. Dey pleads for love, the pain tangible in her voice, only to end by not wanting to make an issue of it, and self-efface. Ending this powerful song with “la la la anyway, just a thought / I’m embarrassed, ignore me” feels a little like she’s made the musical interpretation of the “haha jk… unless” meme.

Dey shuffles contently through a world of fragmented pianos and bells. It sounds like stepping gracefully into another dimension. Tracks like “happiness”, and the tracks preceding it are the closest Dey has come to making accessible pop songs. “Darkness” finds her singing about how intensely she wants to fully understand her partner, to know them down to a molecular level. “I wanna be a Hubble telescope / so I can see you microscopic” and “I wanna be a smartphone / with the face detection fingerprint scanner.” Dey’s commitment is both admirable and a little creepy. It wouldn’t work as well if it tipped more so in either direction. 

Mydata doesn’t stray from Dey’s tendency towards disorder, though. The record’s back half is rife with songs that meander and jeer in strange directions. “Bearing”, the longest track present, also feels like the clear opus here. She explores the very real, very felt in this online romance – “Embracing through window screens / I am warm by her username / Discordant harmony.” It’s a deeply felt distillation of the premise at hand and makes the full picture even more satisfying. “Hurting,” touches on the darker aspects of the thesis. Visceral descriptions of pain and injury are backdropped by cold synths pulsing like radar swipes. It’s hard to discern what Dey is saying sometimes, but it is clear when she delivers “sometimes what you think will help you / fucks you up instead.” 

This is an album made at just the right time. As so much of human connection moves online, it is hard not to feel distant from each other. Mydata rails against this and is there to help you cope with that. Anyone who grew up online in places like AIM or Myspace already knows how real online relationships are. This is a chance to bring those too old to relate up to speed. It is also an examination of for a certain population of queer people, those who grew up or are living in rural areas, that their only escape is on the web and that their connections are just as valid. 


Eric Bennett | @seething_coast

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