Romance is a fickle thing. You never knew exactly when you were in love, or when they were in love with you. Yet you could probably–with pinpoint accuracy–find the moment in time when they weren’t in love with you. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature in the human condition. Where in the moment we don’t really recognize romance, or the times that were romantic, as being romantic. If we were all honest with ourselves, we would see that those moments were always a mixed bag of emotions. One moment we’re annoyed that they can’t figure out what to order, then after the breakup we see it as an endearing character flaw.
Really great artists are able to sort out the mixed bag of emotions of our daily lives, and provide it with a narrative. The narrative is often the medium of which they chose to express it with. For example, if you choose to represent a romance on a video game you have a whole set of problems and barriers; than say if you were to represent a romance on a movie screen. So when reviewing howl youth, a bilingual folk album, released on Valentine’s Day; the question we gotta ask ourselves is–does this album capture those fleeting moments of romance? The answer is a resounding yes.
To begin with when do we find out when something is romantic? Is it at the moment? Or does it happen far after the fact? Most of the time, we can only look to romance as something that happened in the past, and that past often refers to a breakup. What kate can wait does that is special though is that she is able to separate the mixed bag of emotions we often feel at the end of a relationship. Each song paints a vivid soundscape to a point in time of any relationship, the initial love, passion, being together, falling out of love, and finally the breakup.
Alright, so let’s begin this review. So the first thing you should notice when listening to howl youth is how amazing the vocals are. And when I say amazing, I mean that it’s the kind of voice that when you hear it, you immediately want to start singing just like that. This song also introduces the fact that there are going to be only two instruments throughout this whole album; vocals and guitar. Yet this album has more textures, conveys more emotion, and has a richer than most electronic music with 50,000 plugins, presets, settings, and synths. Also because this album only features vocals and a guitar can do something that most of electronic music can’t do; sound vulnerable.
This vulnerability is the most immediate thing that strikes you as you listen to it, with the melancholy guitar plucking away, and sad vocals; you can’t help but feel the emotion pouring out of this track. Then when you look into the lyrics, another wave of emotion will hit you. The bitter lovers quarrel, before you were a lover. The relationship you were apart of, before you were in a relationship. It’s your parents.
Now everybody can remember their parents arguing. If your parents didn’t argue, then they probably were divorced or separated way before you could form any memories. Yet this relationship is as intimate of a relationship as any that you would later be in. You are a child, and as a child you are the center of the universe. A lover’s quarrel between your parents isn’t seen as a lover’s quarrel, it’s seen as a quarrel between you and them. So what kate can wait does here is set up the innocence of childhood.
Chasing feathers one at a time
problems in the house
were settled with wine
A carnival spirit
in love with the light
The moon only takes from the soul
in the night
The line “Chasing feathers one at a time” recalls a point in time of innocence where even a mundane object like a feather was met with wonderment. Yet the line, “problems in the house were settle with wine” hints at a more ominous scenario, as though the brief period of childhood is being interrupted by something more adult. Which is further compounded on by the lyrics, “A carnival spirit in love with the light. The moon only takes from the soul in the night.”
Then when we get to the end we see the formation of that child’s core beliefs–as people say in rehab–that is the building blocks at which they approach the world in adulthood.
A lover’s quarrel turned into hate
but lovers don’t squander a turning of fate
The boy in his bedroom grew to despise
the dark weathered world
the rising tide
With this introductory song, not only do we get a fantastical brooding soundscape, but we get exposition of what the rest of the lyrical content will be. Like a great filmmaker kate can wait, starts us off with the exposition that not only to understand the formation of everyone’s concept of a relationship, but heightens the drama that will unfold as we go on this lyrical journey into a breakup. Where when the highs are high, we understand how important it is due to the opening track, and how much more tragic it is when it all falls apart. Now mind you this is only the first song. There’s a whole entire album filled with just as much emotion, lyrical content, and beautiful sounds.
The next track summer vibez has a much more upbeat tone than the previous track. Although that happiness is deceiving as mentioned previously. The exposition of the prior track taints the rest of the album with this sort of melancholy. And even though tracks like this may seem all sunshine and roses, they will eventually morph into this melancholy nostalgic recall. So how does kate can wait accomplish this?
Mainly she does this by double tracking the first set of vocals–as though they are in a duet. After all this song is a romantic one, and it takes two to tango. This vocal harmonizing does two things, one it beefs up the happiness of the chorus, and two it kind of adds a layer of protection for the listener. We hear double tracked vocals all the time, or just vocals that are put through post production. When that gets removed it’s often so startling for modern ears, that it’s like watching a play and then all of a sudden the actors get naked. It’s that shocking sense of vulnerability coupled with the themes of the song that adds to this sense of loss, that plays throughout the album.
Then we’re left with this amorphous ethereal vocal harmony, that shifts around this soundscape like a ghost who–all though is in the present–can’t escape the past, and stays in this purgatory between two worlds. That of the present and that of the past.
So when we get to déjame, as you can guess is in Spanish. Now this may turn some people off to listening to the album. Due to the fact that for some reason only English is the only language for pop music. Which is of course nonsense. Spanish is a Romantic language, which lends itself well to music. If you don’t believe me, try singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Spanish, I’ll wait… Alright now that you’ve done that, do you see how much easier it is to sing? Or how much better it sounds? That’s because Romantic languages lend themselves well to music.
So when we get to songs like, déjame, licantropía, vesti2, or faros; kate can wait’s vocals are really able to soar. That’s because English is an incredibly nasally sounding language. When an artist is bilingual, and not only bilingual, but bilingual in a Romantic language; you better believe that the songs that are sung in Spanish are going to have some amazing vocals. Yet, being that they’re in Spanish, and it’s not my native tongue. I can’t really comment on the lyrical content, because let’s face it Google translate really sucks. Plus it would be disrespectful to the artist to do that. Yet I encourage you to listen to those songs, and see how much smoother the vocals sound, than they do in English.
Now that’s out of the way let’s get to puppy love which starts out with this almost 50’s rock feel to it. Which is surprising, yet not unexpected. As mentioned before, this album is incredibly well made. Not just from a production standpoint, but from a composition standpoint as well. Listening to this album, you can’t help but feel that kate can wait, not only is an accomplished indie folk musician but one who is an adept student of music itself. It’s said that “Good Artists copy, great artists steal.” A quote from Steve Jobs, from a quote he made up that Pablo Picasso said. Which isn’t true at all, good artists STUDY ART. That should be the immediate takeaway from that guitar.
Secondly is that the guitar has so much energy and exuberance, that it feels like puppy love. The kind of young love that makes you want to go out and have adventures. The lyrics are exuberant to a point. That point is up until the breakup, then the melody changes from exuberance to that of mourning. You can pin point the changes from lyrics that say, “when we were young I called it puppy love, but now I call it spending my life with you.” To “The winters are painful ever since you left.” The soundscape changes with each revelation, as mentioned before this song isn’t about romance in the moment, but a romance that is long gone.
lady hydrangea is really a showstopper. If there was any song I’d show anybody to understand why this album is so good, it would be this one. Everything is tumultuous. It’s that kind of whirlwind of emotion you get when you call back your exe hoping you get back together. The whole moment you are just overwhelmed with sadness, yet there’s that slight glimmer of hope. That hope that maybe if you just say the right words–that it will be like magic–and you’ll be back together. Although that never happens, so we’re left pleading with them forever until you finally give up and succumb to loneliness.
How kate can wait does this is by layering the guitars. Each one conveying a different set of nuanced emotions, that are as rich and deep, as they are simple and straightforward. The best comparison I could think of, is of the Smiths and how Johnny Mar’s guitar playing was so melodic and simple. Yet when layered together creates this harmony of noise that creates the perfect backdrop for Morrissey’s melancholy guitar. Whereas the Smiths had 4 people, kate can wait has one guy. Which makes it all the more impressive how she managed to create such a rich sonic soundscape.
Finally we get to chinese takeout with it’s ambient noise, whistling, and quirky name it doesn’t seem like the track that would be the end to such a tragic album as this. The lyrics tell a different story. “The innocence I’ve found. I held you tight in fear that you too would go. A memory we saved.
Laughter into sadness over Chinese takeout.”
Lyrics don’t get much more poignant than that. It’s one thing to be an artist, it’s another to splay your soul wide open for the world to see. Although the lyrics seem incredibly personal, they are also incredibly universal. We all remember those little moments in relationships that at the moment seem mundane, yet when it’s all over it becomes gargantuan in our psyche. While for kate can wait, it’s Chinese takeout. For someone else, it could be a “Dear John” letter in the trenches, an argument over a movie, the smell of women’s perfume on your clothes, etc.
This entire album with it’s beautiful production, amazing songwriting, and incredible guitar playing is an incredible piece of art that I would encourage anybody to listen to. It’s the best representation of a breakup that music could hope to achieve, and since everybody has gone through a similar situation. Although I skimped out on a few songs, this album has enough content to write a novel on.
With it’s moving soundtrack, poignant lyrics, and amazing guitar playing. I give this album my full hearted recc. Please check it out. I swear that you will be amazed.