What does Kate Davis sound like?
Tightly woven indie rock that packs a punch.
The review of Kate Davis – Fishbowl
Sometimes embracing some power chords and direct riffs can focus an album into delivering its message forcefully. That’s the case with Kate Davis’ ‘Fish Bowl’. Following on from her debut ‘Trophy’ a few years ago, the indie rock singer-songwriter has crafted an anthemic and celebratory album about breaking into a new phase of your life.
The push towards big riffs and less 80s-inspired production is clear. It’s as if Kate has moved forward a decade into the heydays of rocks mainstream surge. ‘Monster Mash’ opens the album with clever lyrics that could evoke Frankenstein stories but also comments on how a world can turn on a creator or artist. It sounds autobiographical since Kate had her initial success covering songs on YouTube before being in a position to release her own material. I wasn’t aware the album was being sung from the perspective of a character until I read up on the album. I wondered if it was from an old version of Kate herself as lyrically, this album dives into moments of transition or reckoning as if piecing together reasons for living or feeling alive. Either way, the opening track sets the scene for hooky indie pop rock and that vibe flows throughout.
After a Belly-esque opener, we venture into two lower-key tracks that remind me of The Cardigans if they were slightly more chaotic. Both ‘Call Home’ and ‘Fructify’ have rich guitar foundations that slurp melancholy and mild disdain for breakfast. ‘Consequences’ is possibly the album highlight where this hazy sadness, empty longing lyrics and indie-pop hookiness all come together perfectly. It is a radio anthem in waiting and has just enough sonic grit, personality and Kate’s penchant for B-movie quirkiness to feel fresh and unique too. It takes a lot of effort to produce a song that sounds so effortlessly sown together and it deserves a lot of praise.
Bringing a cinematic edge to the sound is something that pops up across the album. ‘People Are Doing’ is a fast-paced piece emulating the hustle culture of life in 2023. ‘Ride of Die’ is busy worrying about outward perception and appearance to keep a man interested. Both have choruses that hinge on vocal gymnastics over chugging heavy guitars and both pull it off with style. The former can be moshed too, the latter is a festival arm waver. After the quiet interlude of minimalist piece ‘yoyo’, the third in this indie rock anthem trio is ‘Long Long Long’. This song is open, driven and coming up for air. Unlike most of the album, there is space for the song to breathe and is the closest track to hitting four minutes. It’s ideal for a moody road trip, with its hollow and numbed synths playing a large part in its lost-sounding atmosphere.
‘dd’ reminds me of early Lisa Germano crossed with Mitski. The vocals are vacuumed tight and vulnerable over noodling guitars. There is a lyric here that I found very revealing. ‘Are you here to hear all the songs that I’m singing to satisfy you?’ Again, that feeling of misguided communication, unwanted attention and feeling like playing a part and not being yourself is a theme across the album. It just hits home in that single sentence.
The final third of the album doubles down on the strength of Kate Davis’ songwriting and production quirks. ‘Saw You Staring’ is a mid-tempo alt-rock bop. Possibly the heaviest track on the album, the shoegazing side of Kate is allowed to run amok here. ‘Fish Bowl’ plays into Kate’s ability to throw in a curveball chord progression out of nowhere. It is something that crops up across the album and when it’s paired with fast tracks like here, the track is like a rollercoaster surprise. The album closes with ‘Reckoning’ which plays into that cinematic kooky quality of unusual chord progressions too. Instead of being about guitars though, this time it’s almost all bass and vocals. Kate’s voice breaks off into eerie two-tone sirens that then detune and filter out as instrument feedback rumbles around it. It is an effective closer but also leaves the album feeling quite ambiguous at the end too. Did we escape the fishbowl of modern life?
Whilst I enjoyed ‘Trophy’, I clicked more immediately and have fallen much deeper for ‘Fish Bowl’. The songs synergise together effortlessly and as an album, it is a pleasure to play from start to end. In a world focused on singles, it is great to have an album still feel like it’s been conceived as one. Anyone who enjoys indie rock, alternative rock and the heyday of 90s indie bands especially will adore ‘Fish Bowl’. There is definitely a B-movie quirky edge to the unusual chord progressions too, which marks Kate’s music out from the rest. With ‘Fish Bowl’ and her new direct approach, Kate Davis packs a punch. I hope she sticks with it for a 1-2 counterattack in the future.
Recommended track: Consequences
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