We are all inextricably tied to our past. It informs our every decision and moulds our future. We can take solace in times passed, and happier moments. We can wile away the hours flipping through the photo albums in our mind and try to breathe new life into people and moments lost in our personal histories. But we can also become prisoner to it. One’s relationship to their past is a large theme in Kate Davis’ debut, “Trophy.”
Take, for instance, “Cloud.” It is a breezy ode to young love. It recalls the agony and ecstasy of teenage affection through a gauze of nostalgia that softens any sharp edges. The guitar provides a perfect counterpoint to Davis’ vocals, as they both seem to float weightlessly against the backdrop of youthful memory. It’s a feeling that’s easy to get lost in. It’s warm, inviting and sugar-sweet. It works as a nice bit of escapism compared to the album’s heavier themes.
This works in contrast with “rbbts.” Named after a New York cafe that served as a place of refuge for Davis during a tumultuous time in her life, she ruminates on the relentless passage of time. She sings “nothing lasts forever, you can never hold on to tight/ Skin will slip away and in no time we’ll see the light.” It is a song about coming to terms with the issues you may be facing and learning how to meet them head on. If “Cloud” is about getting swept up in memory, “rbbts” is about breaking from that dream-state and forging forward. It seems strangely appropriate that the titular establishment no longer exists. It is part of a past that you cannot return to.
Elsewhere, on the album’s wonderful opener, “Daisy,” Davis touches further on tragedy and hardship as an impetus for personal growth. Written as a eulogy to her father, the lyrics are preoccupied with feelings of loss and grief. We see Davis sifting through dreams “happy or sad or the middle/ Sometimes about you, with or without you/ Still leaving me in the dark.” Musically it is a highpoint on the album with the off-kilter melody and phrasing playing tug-of-war with the unwavering snare hits. As Davis sings about “fucking up, and “dragging out of bed,” you get the feeling she’s tying to keep up with her own song.
“Daisy” resolves with a feeling of resolution and perseverance, which is a thread you can trace throughout Trophy. Life moves quickly and things can change in an instant. We continually get cut down, and must learn how to rebuild ourselves from the ground up. With Trophy, Kate Davis has crafted a smart, tuneful and heartfelt debut record about self- examination and looking to the future while still being mindful of the past. It’s a heady mix, but it is carried out carefully, and it never seems at odds with the album’s sharp pop sensibilities.
review by David Kandle
2. Open Heart
3. Burning Accidents
4. Dirty Teenager
7. I Like Myself
8. Did You Love Somebody
11. St Joseph
Nov 12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
Nov 13 – Washington, DC @ Pie Shop
Nov 14 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
Nov 15 – Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere (Zone 1)
Nov 16 – Boston, MA @ Cafe 939
Dec 4 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza (Not announced)
Dec 5 – Portland, OR @ Polaris Hall (Not announced)
Dec 8 – San Fran, CA @ Sun Hotel (Not announced)
Dec 9 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Hotel Cafe (Not announced)
Jan 24, 2020 – Glasgow, UK @ Broadcast (Celtic Connections)
Jan 25, 2020 – London, UK @ The Islington
Jan 26, 2020 – Brighton, UK @ Prince Albert
Jan 27, 2020 – Manchester, UK @ Gullivers
Jan 29, 2020 – Luxembourg, LU @ De Gudde Wellen
Jan 30, 2020 – Nyon, CH @ La Parenthese
Jan 31, 2020 – Paris, FR @ 1999
Feb 01, 2020 – Ghent, BE @ Charlatan
Feb 02, 2020 – Rotterdam, NL @ Roodkapje
Feb 03, 2020 – Copenhagen, DK @ Vega Ideal Bar
Feb 05, 2020 – Berlin, DE @ Monarch
Trophy by Kate Davis is now available via Solitaire Recordings