A good set of lyrics are pivotal to any singer/songwriter – a cursory glance at the tag alone should reveal that much – and while the term may well be nebulous, it’s about as specific a tag as you can apply to This Is The Kit. Imbued with a deeply individualistic attitude, bandleader Kate Stables has long made the wise decision to centre the music around the words – a trend unchanged by the band’s fourth long player, ‘Moonshine Freeze’.
Stables’ unique outlook – a frequently salient juxtaposition of understated, down-to-earth realism and passionate outcries – form ‘Moonshine Freeze’s heart. Musically the record is often subdued, the sonics not quite taking a backseat but at least existing primarily as backing to Stables’ lyrics and the honest, unpretentious way in which she delivers them. Her words are smart and often memorable, sung with an experienced ease and written with a dry wit – qualities that make for an album that is both affable and rewarding.
There’s a defiant streak to Stables’ lyricism, too; “we’ll fight you, we’ll will fight you” she chants on “Riddled With Ticks”, momentarily giving hope that she will indeed overcome the unnamed assailant before, in typically grounded fashion, she concedes “we’ll lose”. It’s a caveat that most songwriters would leave out; a stain on their otherwise glossy visions of reality – Stables’ refreshingly matter-of-fact lyrical approach is a big part of This Is The Kit’s charm.
While it’s certainly easy to focus on Stables’ witty and unpretentious delivery, to do so exclusively is to unjustly ignore the musical backing. Frequently based around banjo – played here with a delicacy rarely associated with the instrument – softly ringing drums and discreet, tasteful washes of electric guitar coalesce to form a musical palette perhaps not unfamiliar to fans of the style but certainly anything but clichéd. Although musicality is often muted and subtle, there’re a few moments of more overt tonality to often come out of the blue, an unexpected but always welcome sonic detour.
The buzzing brass of ‘Hotter Colder’ backs up the vocal melodies, an endearingly pushy addition to an otherwise lowkey tune that nevertheless punches well above its weight in terms of impact and, it must be said, immediacy – there’re some remarkably catchy melodies dotted throughout ‘Moonshine Freeze’. Stables’ voice is quite remarkable; in many ways mirroring the same qualities as her lyricism, it’s articulate and rich in a notably unselfconscious way, with an enviable clarity that’s hard if not impossible to fake. Coupled with the frequently discreet but almost subversively affecting sonics, the resultant sound is one with an impact perhaps belied by the quietness of the sound.
‘Moonshine Freeze’ is an intelligent, powerful record with more than enough depth – especially lyrically – to not only stand up to but even encourage repeat listens. With a persuasive charm and clear-headed delivery, Kate Stables has crafted an excellent album in ‘Moonshine Freeze’.