Katy Kirby on “Portals:
I’ve always been uneasy with the idea of alternate universes, or realities. Even choose-your-own-adventure books used to stress me out. I wondered if it might be equally interesting and more helpful to consider “alternate universes” something as simple as other people. Around the time I wrote this song, I had been considering what I’d retain from a relationship if or when it ended—what I might be left with in the long run, after it didn’t hurt anymore. I realized that it’d be an alternate version of myself. Hell, how many parts of whatever I call a self aren’t even accessible without a particular interaction? “Portals” is me thinking about the alternate, purely interior worlds that slide open with each person/universe we intersect with, and if what we think of as “closeness” to that person has anything to do with what gets opened.
“Portals” if we peel apart will we be stronger than we were before / we had formed ourselves together / in a temporary whole / and if we reunite, will we still know / the things that we had learned before? / we’re not boxes, doors, or borders / we were portals.
Katy Kirby is a Texas-based songwriter and indie rock practitioner with an affinity for unspoken rules, misunderstanding, and boredom. She was born, raised, and homeschooled by two ex-cheerleaders in small-town Texas and started singing in church, amidst the pasteurized-pop choruses of evangelical worship. Like many bible belt late-millennials, Katy grew up on a strict diet of this dependably uncool genre and accordingly, Cool Dry Place finds her dismantling it. “I can hear myself fighting that deeply internalized impulse to make things that are super pleasant or approachable,” she says.
Though Katy hasn’t fully overcome the itch to please, it’s to a listener’s benefit. Instead of eradicating the pop sensibilities of her past, she warps them, lacing sugary hooks with sneaky rage, twisting affectionate tones into matter-of-fact reproach, and planting seemingly serene melodies with sonic jabs. The fun is in the clash.
The nine tracks that make up Cool Dry Place are miscellaneous in subject (motherhood, late capitalism, disintegrating relationships,) but unified by the angle from which they’re told: from a person re-learning to process life with intense attention. Each song is a catalog of fragments, the number of segments in an orange or the cut of an obsessively-worn shirt, distilled into meditations on the bizarre and microscopic exchanges that make up modern life — a relationship splintering, an uncomfortable pause, an understanding finally found. These emotional dioramas are moderated by the angular storytelling that unites Gillian Welch and Phoebe Bridgers, a favor for the conventions of short fiction over confession