Katie Malco: Failures (6131) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, January 24th, 2021  

Katie Malco



Aug 17, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

It’s been almost seven years—bar 2016’s rather beautifully desolate Christmas single—since Scots-born Northampton-based artist Katie Malco released new music. But 2020 sees her long time coming debut album Failures finally arrive via 6131 Records. The fact that it’s here at all is cause for celebration—despite critical acclaim she had previously gone on record stating she’d experienced a crisis of confidence, struggled for direction, and wasn’t sure if she’d ever release music again.   

Thankfully having reappraised her approach, she’s returned with an album brimming with bittersweet splendor informed by honesty and emotional intelligence and all drawn together by Malco’s potently beautiful vocal and sincere and, on occasion, brutally honest lyrics.  

The first two tracks on the album essentially set the tone for what follows. Opening with the driving rush of “Animal,” Malco confronts her former self who, during her teenage years, was forced to couch surf to avoid going home and facing her mother’s abusive partner and ended up drinking excessively. It’s a track that’s sonically light-years away from the sparse piano-led arrangements of her critically acclaimed 2013 debut EP, Tearing Ventricles. However, track two, the beautiful, wistful, cinematic “Brooklyn,” slows things down and strips things back a shade without ever reducing the song’s emotional power. This is due in no small part to Malco’s innate ability as a songwriter and storyteller to evoke an atmosphere, a sense of place, time, and emotion—an artist who can express deeply personal sentiments in a way that is universally relatable.

“Creatures” and the soaring “Let’s Go to War” showcase Malco’s more expansive sound while tracks such as “Night Avenger” and “Peckham” hark back to the sound on her debut EP but also reveal how much she has developed as a songwriter. 

Failures, as the title suggests, is an album that addresses feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, melancholia, and heartbreak and in less-skilled hands could be something of a tough listen. However, Malco never sounds self-pitying and instead brings empathy and humanity to the table. She’s informed by her mistakes from the past, but not owned by them. There’s also a sense that perhaps she’s learning to be kinder to herself. We can all fuck up, develop unhealthy habits, find ourselves through no fault of our own, in situations in which we have no control over and be can be drawn into unhealthy obsessions. Ultimately it’s how we react and move on from these experiences that matter. 

This is a debut album of genuine warmth and emotion. There’s absolutely nothing contrived here and it’s this honesty and willingness to examine and own past mistakes and experiences that ultimately makes Failures such a success. (www.katiemalco.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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