Katie Kate, Nation
Out Aug. 5, self-released, katiekatemusic.com
For an artist who’s openly struggled with self-confidence and the need to prove herself on the rap scene, Katie Kate’s second album tells a different story. It’s a narrative that seems to take and impart advice all on its own, a self-contained manifesto to and for the artist herself—who, after months of shopping it unsuccessfully to labels, simply released it on her own. From the lyrics of the trap-beat-amped second track “Canyon” (“Canyon’s calling you/Close your eyes and jump with me/I can hear her say, ‘Be brave, child, be brave’ ”), the rapper, aka Katherine Finn, leaps headfirst into these 10 songs, laying bare a range of fears, desires, and strange visions. Some of them reflect a period of intensely vivid dreams during which Nation was written, and the material shares similar spacey vibes with fellow Seattle-based avant-rapper Ishmael Butler. Also like Butler, Finn eschews conventional rap braggadocio for more obscure, soul-mining wordplay, a move that not only helps elevate and push the art form, but also reveals the full scope of her talent. A Cornish grad who can reportedly play roughly 15 instruments, Finn produced and wrote this album herself, with minimal contributions from friends like Nacho Picasso and Jarv D, who offer a certain street cred to “Persephone,” and live drumming from Trent Moorman, who adds to the album’s underlying spastic, frantic edge. Overall, this is Katie Kate’s baby: dark, strange, and often catchy as hell; even the album’s title implies a sense of self-autonomy. This is best heard on “Rushmore,” when she sings in a voice that’s both sweet and don’t-even-try-to-fuck-with-me, “I change for no one.” As in the famous monument, there’s a real feeling of stoicism and resolve in those words. They’re ones she’s dug deep for, and now can rightly claim as her own.