Katie Von Schleicher - Shitty Hits

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:9 Release Date:2017-07-28

Don’t take anything at face value when Katie Von Schleicher and her debut album Shitty Hits are concerned because you might miss a great album and a great artist!

Let’s start right there. For starters, this is the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s debut album, and yet it isn’t. She did previously come up with a number of four track cassettes and a mini album, Bleaksploitation (2015), yet Shitty Hits counts as her proper debut.

Another misconception would be taking the album title (or Katie’s explanation of its origin) at face value. First of all, there’s nothing shitty about this album, musically or lyrically. There are no hits either…yet. Judging from what Von Schleicher explained on the eve of this album’s release, she wanted to recreate the feeling and atmosphere of 70’s radio, playing all those songs that were more or less tailored for it, as a companion for present day. She starts to let the influential names start flying; Bruce Springsteen, 10cc, and even Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

If you just pay attention to the musical element of some of the tracks, you may get that impression. Most of them have that easy flow associated with 70’s AM/FM, and Schleicher has quite a mellifluous voice, like a nice cross between Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith. Elton (we can debate whether he was good then or not), 10cc, and Springsteen (“Life’s A Lie”) and other acts of that era, with their particular melodic flow, do come to mind, as well, especially on the first four tracks. But then Schleicher comes pop with “Nothing,” a kind of dirge waltz that could have something to do with that decade if it was a lost page from Tom Waits’ notebook while he was preparing for his Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs phase. A good page. After that, it is a musical see-saw, from the pure balladry of “Mary” to the guitar licks that could have come only from somebody like Jeff Lynne on “Isolator” and “Hold,” which has more to do with the 1920’s than anything Gilbert O’Sullivan did leaning on that era fifty years later.

But the key deception lies in the lyrics Schleicher combines with this mostly gentle and easy music. Here, I freely say that she can turn out to be one of the new lyrical heavyweights. Try for example the opener, “The Image.” It is named after a visionary 1961 work by notable American Historian Daniel J. Boorstin, in which he deals with the way contemporary culture uses simulations and false appearances. How’s that for “easy?” And then, every other track here has lyrics that force you to think in detail about where Schleicher is taking you. Then again, that is what happens if you take one aspect of this album at face value.

Another deception is that Schleicher recorded the whole album mostly by herself at her home in Maryland; however, you can forget the usual lo-fi recording techniques and arrangements associated with such approaches. The production and arrangement values on Shitty Hits are impeccable.

It would be hard to put this album in context with any other issued this year save maybe it is akin in spirit with Aldous Harding’s Party. After all, Schleicher has a line in “The Image” where she says she would like to live in New Zealand. But then, should we take that at face value?

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