Cool Dry Place
2021 • ALTERNATIVE/FOLK • KEELED SCALES
With comforting instrumentation and cautious lyrics, Cold Dry Place emerges as the perfect debut for the Texas singer.
Some people may consider Katy Kirby as the perfect match between Katy Perry and Clairo. The first one because they both share a similar early career story — both began to develop their passion for music singing in church choirs — and the second because of the extremely similar sound aesthetics that both adopted as a way of exposing their ideas and feelings. Furthermore, curiously, Kirby is also able to combine a sound and composition easily reminiscent of Waxahatchee with catchy hooks that are increasingly scarce in the alternative lo-fi scenario. In other words, the debut by the Texas singer, Cold Dry Place, is the perfect combination of some extremes which has not been seen for a long time.
Kirby’s entire path seemed predestined to lead her here, on an album that fits perfectly as a debut for her. Recently, she showed disgust with the songs she had contact with when she was younger, calling Christian music empty, vacant, dated, and “digestible.” Thus, Cold Dry Place seems to bring together everything she learned from Christian music, or rather, everything she learned not to do. Her debut is simple, cozy like a cloudy afternoon in a warm apartment and inviting like a friend’s smile. Her songs usually hover around simple lyrics that almost always have double meanings in disguise and simplistic and minimalist instrumentals that only increase the sense of intimacy that Kirby provides to her listeners. In her own words, each of the nine songs is a slice of orange, a door opening, and a cut into a T-shirt.
The album kicks off with “Eyelids,” in which Kirby begins to give clues on the best qualities of her album: its sonority, which walks the line between the acoustic of his room and sharp production, and its short and appetizing composition that rarely follows any pattern but is still capable of being lived, unique and free. Alongside a few strings and a piano that plays thick and opaque notes, she sings in the opener, “I’d dream of world I’d protect you from/If I was your man.” However, much more than just good synchrony between lyrics, voice, and instrumental, the track carries an atmosphere that is seen in all songs and is largely responsible for making Cold Dry Place special: in all cases, Kirby is as honest with us as she is with herself.
Breaking Cold Dry Place into its two main factors, we can analyze in detail the record and understand what makes it support itself with so little. The first factor is the production and sound. In fact, as already mentioned, it often remembers Waxahatchee’s latest project, but at times he seems more daring. Take, for example, “Juniper,” which seems to fit perfectly with Saint Cloud, or “Traffic !,” which develops around a sweet and interesting combination of Kirby’s rhythm and voice that builds something soft and pleasant. However, while the first remains in something calmer and simpler, where she uses repetitions to transform the band into an earworm, the second shows her ambition, with the band progressing to something more and more pleasant until it explodes in a mess of drums, electric strings, church vocals, and synthesizers. In both cases, Kirby knows what she is doing and she does it very well.
The second highlight of the album ends up being Katy’s compositions, which work as the most intriguing event on the record. In short words, Kirby’s lyrics are short and minimalist and do not follow a standard structure, very similar to what Clairo did in 2019 in her debut. However, much more than that, her compositions are just like or perhaps even more complex. But the plot-twist is when her lyrics manage to deliver a catchy chorus worthy of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Curiously and uniquely, Kirby brings all these factors together in a way that only she could. While in “Tap Twice” she paints vivid scenes of a relationship, in the title track she demonstrates a certain shaking of the structures of that relationship, as in “Fireman” the outcome seems to lead to something uncertain. And amid all the lines, she discusses motherhood, religion, and relationships. Perhaps the scariest thing is when you discover that she never uses the same vision for all events, but a different perspective at every moment — but that is up to you to find out.
At the end, when Cold Dry Place ends, you feel awkward. Only 30 minutes have passed but so much seems to have happened. At the same step, instrumental simplicity seems to have just comforted you while Kirby sang what you knew, but differently. Her breakup is groovy and her criticism is dancing. Meanwhile, her calm melodies sometimes convey a sunny face. She did great in both cases despite everything.