Kathleen: Kathleen II (Let Me Know/Warner) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, January 25th, 2021  


Kathleen II

Let Me Know/Warner Records

Nov 23, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Kathleen has released the second of her two self-titled EPs this year. Where her debut EP established her as a creative new voice in the singer/songwriter world, her second expands her horizons even further. Her second EP of material is an eclectic mix of styles, bringing together art pop, Americana, heartbreak ballads, and addictive pop standouts, working alongside production from Ariel Rechtshaid, Ryan Linvell, Noah Conrad, and Kathleen herself.

Kathleen II opens with “August,” the sister track of Kathleen I opener “The Longest Year.” The song has been in Kathleen’s repertoire for years and shares a heartfelt piano ballad feel with “The Longest Year.” Whereas that track articulated the acute anxiety and weariness of climate collapse and political strife, “August” sets the tone for a far more personal set of songs. It is a classic heartbroken piano ballad as anguished as it is beautiful, as it reflects on the end of a seemingly perfect love. Kathleen sings, “That’s not what I was told when/I learned how to love you/’Cause I was never taught that/Perfect love could end.” 

“Dark Side of the Moon” is equally lush but leans into a folk-tinged Americana sound, grounding Kathleen’s soaring melodies with finger-picked guitar. Lyrically, it is a poetic account of quarantine-era travel, written on the road from LA to Kathleen’s native Colorado. During her migration, Kathleen connects with the natural world and her family, finding hope within the trials and reframing the pandemic as a chance for rebirth. She finds the healing possibilities within tragedy, concluding, “But then through mornings without traffic/Through horizons without smog/I could see that wasn't fire, no/That was just the dawn.” 

While the first two tracks play into Kathleen’s already established strengths as a songwriter, the final two expand her songwriting horizons with her most pop-focused tracks yet. “Can’t Sleep” is the clear pop standout, recasting Kathleen with danceable hooks, swelling layered vocal melodies, and thumping percussion. With the track, Kathleen captures the spirit of a breathless dance floor anthem, while the lyrics reflect on living in a divided and constantly warring status quo. “Glass Piano” carries on in this vein, drawing out a similarly anthemic pop sound. On these tracks, the production especially shines as Noah Conrad takes on sole production duties on "Glass Piano." It works as an exercise in contrasts; the twinkling piano and nimble vocal melody of the verses explodes into a powerful stomp with the chorus. Kathleen’s vocals are the compelling centerpiece, while the towering instrumental provides a brilliant stage for her talents.

Kathleen II expands Kathleen’s songwriting even further into the world of pop to fantastic effect. While she retains the soulful songwriting that formed the basis of her first EP, Kathleen also takes on some more ambitious range with her followup. Each song has a distinct character to it which brings a unique focus to each track. Taken together, Kathleen’s 2020 debut EPs show an impressive amount of adventurousness, setting a wide open stage for her next effort. One can only hope her next chapter will be as poetic, rich, and consistent as her EPs. (www.soundslikekathleen.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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