Album Review: Katy J Pearson – Return

By Live4ever - Posted on 11 Nov 2020 at 8:09am

Katy J Pearson Return artwork

Katy J Pearson justifies the long road on debut album Return.

The word ‘indie’ has gone through many re-evaluations over the years; from its origins as music released on an independent record label to becoming a catch-all phrase for anything with guitars. Katy J Pearson can lay a claim to being ‘indier’ than most.

Nearly four years ago, Pearson and her brother had dalliances with the music industry after the pair were picked up by a major label. Yet they soon fell foul of the machinations and pressures required to work with a music behemoth.

Chastened by the experience, she honed her craft as a solo artist and wrote a catalogue of songs between her parents’ house in Gloucestershire, her own bedroom in Bristol and a local community arts centre, all the while touring as a support act to Cass McCombs and Olden Yolk among others.

These wares caught the attention of Heavenly Records, who financed the release of this album (hence Return) and gave Katy J Pearson the space to develop at her own pace. If nothing else, she deserves kudos for buckling down and finding her own voice (hence indie). Happily, there is much else to praise.

The wistful strings fading in on opening track Tonight signify Pearson easing us into her world, yet give a false sense of security that it might be a fragile place.

That’s soon revealed to not be the case, as the bouncy trumpets and stifled righteousness of her vocals indicate that a force to be reckoned with is at work. Amidst the vibrant intrusive strings of the scuttling Beautiful Soul she reinforces the point.

The album benefits from repeated listens as the instrumentation is varied but never overbearing. Whilst the songstress tenderly warbles on the title-track, only the tender finger-plucked acoustic is at first noticeable before giving way to strings to close.

Yet there is also a subtle mellotron which adds depth to what feels like an initially stripped-down track. Likewise the near indecipherable organ on Miracle.

The incessant piano on Fix Me Up takes centre-stage, and while the whole feels deliberately acoustically-ragged, one can surmise that’s intentional because it is in fact concise and polished.

In contrast, there is some repetition with song structure. Namely that many tracks start slowly and gradually build before a cathartic release with repeated outro, though none outstay their welcome.

Something Real progresses incrementally with brass adding itself as it goes along before a climactic release, while the simple but effective guitar solo on On The Road transcends the song to a higher emotive plain.

A word too for the rhyming couplets. Historically very tricky to pull off, Katy J Pearson is able to repeat the trope on multiple occasions with deft aplomb. ‘You’d better get some rest before I put you to the test’, may not look good on the page, but within Fix Me U – a plea for life enrichment (via companionship) – it works excellently.

On Return she wonders, ‘will you be surprised that I’ve changed like the weather, I’m light as a feather’, which could be too on-the-nose but is just the right side of heartfelt.

It seems remiss not to mention Take Back The Radio, but what else is there to say? Time and exposure have not diluted its potency. The pulsing purity of the track ensures it remains fresh yet timeless, an offcut from Ray Of Light remixed for a new decade. Joy at its most natural.

Return may contain bittersweet tales of boy-meets girl and lovelorn Americana, and on occasion Katy J Pearson’s vocal style can lend itself to natural vulnerability, but it also radiates impressive levels of confidence and positivity from an indie hero who has already shown herself to be unwilling to compromise.


Richard Bowes

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