A curious and alluring mix of light and heavy.
Melbourne based singer songwriter Katie Bates started playing in bars and clubs in her early teens and now, still at a rather tender age, that experience has instilled a valuable maturity in both her writing and performing. ‘Until The Day Dies’, her latest five track EP intends to showcase these abilities and makes a fair fist of doing just that.
Songs of traditional country styling sitting alongside the more unorthodox make for an interesting listen. The title track has a simple country flavoured opening, with a nasally breathy vocal singing about misplaced optimism, trying not to be a fool. The harmonies are pleasant and – a feature throughout the record – excellent gentle pedal steel, and a twangy guitar lead complete the country sound. The marvellously titled ‘Self Proclaimed People Pleaser’ features a slightly snarling Gretchen Peters style vocal, with plenty of dirty guitar in a blues-y song with a heavier vibe in a ‘You’re So Vain’….er….vein. Lines such as “you think you’re God’s gift to women” and “actions speak louder than your lies” pay testament to this.
‘Wishing Away Her Happiness’ is one of those sad country songs of pining love for someone already taken….”cause if I see him with her when he gets home, I’ll be wishing away her happiness for my own.” Slower paced, with an oddly placed wah-wah guitar, gentle quiet organ and electric piano, and more of that more delightful pedal steel. The electric piano and organ also feature in ‘Still Have A Home’, which tells of feeling alone, being away from family and just wanting to get home, before the final and certainly most interesting track, ‘Polka Dot Dress.’ This is a song about submitting to temptation, opens with an almost spoken word verse, and then slowly builds into a heavy-ish guitar driven finale, with changes of tone and rhythm and drama. It has a sophisticated construction and reflects a PJ Harvey influence in Bates’ writing.
It is a pity there are only five tracks in this collection and it will be interesting to see where her music takes her next. The press release highlights the mix of americana and heavier influences in Bates’ songs: “Music you can both two step and head bang to.” That might be a stretch but certainly on this evidence, there should be more compelling material to look forward to.