Katy Pinke 2024
Photo: Camilo Fuentealba Brevis

Katy Pinke Charms and Disarms on Her Brilliant Debut

Katy Pinke’s indie folk music on her debut album comes from deep inside. It’s warm and engaging and leaves the listener yearning for more.

Katy Pinke
Katy Pinke
Glamour Gowns
23 April 2024

There are albums – sometimes debut records – that introduce themselves with overt gestures, announcing their arrival with the subtlety of an air horn through a megaphone. Those LPs can be brilliant and instantly engaging. But sometimes, a debut comes along with charm and wit and an up-close-and-personal style that almost sounds like you’re sitting right there with the musicians, experiencing the creation of something unique and special. Katy Pinke gives us the latter.

Pinke, a Manhattan-based singer-songwriter, takes cues on her self-titled debut album from artists like the Roches, Bill Callahan, and Aldous Harding. While her infectious soprano can, at times, sound like it’s coming from a place of naïve purity, the quality of that voice and the songs it sings bear the burden of a musician and songwriter with a wealth of talent and experience.

Produced and mixed by Philip Weinrobe (Adrianne Lenker, Cass McCombs, Hand Habits) and recorded at his Sugar Mountain Studio, Katy Pinke—released on Office Culture bassist Charlie Kaplan’s Glamour Gowns label—wisely implements a stripped-down approach. It consists almost entirely of Pinke on vocals and guitar and Jeremy Gustin on (muted) drums—with a few additional musicians on a couple of songs. This type of arrangement attempts to channel the experience of Pinke’s live performances.

“I’m the best thing in the game,” she sings at the beginning of the first song, “Endarkenment”. “Pulling up screaming the name / Swallowing all of the flaws / Clenching them in my jaws / Keeping me from my own true singing.” Gustin’s low-key, subtle drumming follows along Pinke’s vocals and guitar, and the track – clocking in at just under two minutes, is described in the press notes as “a miniature”, a small, almost sketch-like composition, but with melody and charm to spare.

Most of the songs are relatively brief; together, they clock in at under a half-hour. That works to Pinke’s advantage, as these relatively quick gems hold the listener’s attention and perhaps leave them wanting more before moving on to the next track. There’s no such thing as overstaying a welcome here. The tuneful-yet-sketch-like “Endarkenment” ducks out and gives way to the wistful, fingerpicking folk of “Bloom”, two songs with distinct differences still possessing Pinke’s unique compositional fingerprints.

“Tomato” sees the first appearance of a third musician, as Kaplan’s Office Culture bandmate Winston Cook-Wilson contributes a distant, toy-like piano that combines mystery and playfulness, as Pinke describes the end of a difficult relationship. “And when you go away / I’ll find someone to make me feel all right / But it won’t be the same / I won’t be waiting up for you at night.” On “Strawman”, one of the record’s strongest tracks, Pinke is aided by backing vocalists – Will Pinke, Lily Cowles, Arabella Oz, and Russell O’Rourke – who provide subtle, sympathetic accompaniment as the song’s fast tempo is another analysis of a relationship gone sour: “I wanted to see what you saw / I wanted to see, but I made you out of straw / Did you do the same to me?”

The production of Katy Pinke is another significant contribution to the LP’s beauty. Listen to a song like “Syzygy”, where there’s such a clear separation of the vocals, guitar, and drums, sparse execution of the instrumentation, and even small touches like a muted cymbal crash near the beginning of the song that makes you feel like you’re right there in the studio, experiencing the sonic intimacy of these two musicians. These quiet, crystal-clear moments help define the overall feel of an album that already has so much going for it.

“The age in your face / was a little less than I had guessed,” Pinke sings in “Traveler”. “I’d just been to space / Wanted to unearth something I’d left.” The playful waltz tempo, matched with Pinke’s surreal lyrics, evokes a feeling of folk that is somehow dreamlike but rooted in authentic, basic principles of songwriting and performance. The sparse arrangements on Pinke’s debut album can be deceiving – there’s a definite simplicity in her approach, but the music that comes from deep inside her is warm and engaging and leaves the listener yearning for more.

RATING 8 / 10