Album Review: Katy Kirby – ‘Cool Dry Place’

Posted: by The Editor

Tender and sweeping, Katy Kirby’s debut record Cool Dry Place, out 2/19 on Keeled Scales, is sublime, easy listening. Playful arrangements emphasize Kirby’s whimsical, pointed approach to lyric writing — a kind of fantastical spin on reality born from Kirby’s inclination to subvert the church hymns and pristine pop of her Texan upbringing in the early aughts, and personal inquiries into spirituality and the contradictions of life.

Throughout the record’s nine tracks, fine details and keen observations fall into place over delightful, often surprising turns of melody and sonic punctuation. Kirby’s sense of melodic intrigue and rhythm make for magnetic and wildly satisfying feats of that elusive perfect alchemy of pop, folk, and rock. While Cool Dry Place is Kirby’s first full-length release, there’s no trace of a beginner’s stumbling. Kirby’s musicality is proficient and practiced, as is her voice, both literally and in her lyricism.

These songs are the kind that come to feel like friends after repeat listening “Tap Twice” is one to quietly hum in your kitchen over a slice of bread, and the titular refrain of “Cool Dry Place” keeps coming to me in the early morning and the lull of midday. “Juniper,” a consideration of motherhood and the passings-on of specialized knowings, is revived from an earlier EP, now a little more raucous but just as deliriously infectious, a standout in its own right.

Through the curve of sweeter moments, the sugary sentimentality of album opener “Eyelids” or the raw nerve of curiosity prodded on “Portals” Kirby narrows out the space for a more expansive palette of emotion and sound. Motifs of oranges, a smattering of references — to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and a pharmaceutical advisory — are mantras with a sideways particularity reflecting Kirby’s unique visions of the connections between relationships, gardening expertise, lovers with a science-fiction spin, and keeping close what’s gone away.

In the care of Katy Kirby’s lively and attentive musicianship, Cool Dry Place is exactly what its title suggests—a warm sonic locale that creates a space for inquiry and curiosity, and steadied attention to the finer details and through-lines of life.

Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great /Phenomenal

Emma Bowers | @emmaebowers

The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.