An album that never loses its capability to surprise, from the very first listen, you know you’ll be coming back to it again and again
When Bristol’s Katy J Pearson first appeared in 2020 with her debut album Return, she seemed to be pigeonholed as part of a new wave of country singers. Listening to it now, it’s nowhere near a Nashville sound, and two years later, her follow up, Sound Of The Morning, is defined by one thing: a complete inability to be pigeonholed.
Like all the best albums, Sound Of The Morning is a tough one to categorise. There’s pastoral folk, odd nervy synth experiments and straightforward indie-pop, all held together by Pearson’s extraordinary voice – part Stevie Nicks, part Kate Bush, with a slight side-order of Joanna Newsom thrown in – and some inventive production from Dan Carey.
Carey has been behind some of the best records of the year, including Wet Leg‘s debut and the most recent Foals album, and this is another fine credit for him. The brassy strut of Howl (with Orlando Weeks on backing vocals), the yearning AOR-influenced The Flood or the catchy, horn-enhanced number that is Game Of Cards all demonstrate how versatile Carey and Pearson make Sound Of The Morning.
In fact, maybe the closest comparison is Caroline Rose‘s much underrated album Loner – there’s the same joyous leap from genre to genre that marked that album out as one of the best of recent years. The recent single Alligator, distinguished by a naggingly insistent bassline, is one of the best songs of the year, and Talk Of Town is the sort of track which will be played all through summer, a gorgeously breezy reflection on growing fame, with heavy nods to the likes of Real Estate or Tame Impala.
There’s an eerie, unsettling edge to the deceptively boppy Confession, with its repeated lines of “it was a very long time ago, when it happened”, while The Hour is somewhat of an outlier from the rest of the album, despite being its centrepiece. Instead of the restless energy of the tracks around it, its a quiet, hushed lament with some beautiful finger-picked acoustic guitar.
Above all, Sound Of The Morning never loses its capability to surprise. It begins with the Nick Drake-style folk of the title track, and ends with a cover version of Willow’s Song from the 1973 British horror classic The Wicker Man. A burst of brass will come in when you least expect it, or Carey’s intriguing little production tricks will be expertly threaded in somewhere. Some songs bop and weave all over the place, while others such as Storm To Pass (featuring Black Midi‘s Morgan Simpson on drums) are played straight, and are all the more effective for it.
Overall, Pearson has produced an album with very few weak spots. It’s a record that takes the strengths of Return and builds on them, resulting in a work that, from the very first listen, you know you’ll be going back to again and again.