Sometimes a song you’re meant to hear arrives in your life at the exact moment it should. That was how it was with the hypnotic “Earthquake” from This Is the Kit‘s 2013 album Wriggle Out the Restless when I heard it last summer for the first time. Thankfully, I was tipped off (albeit late) to This Is the Kit, alias of British musician Kate Stables, after interviewing singer-songwriter Laura Veirs who’d collaborated with Stables on the opening track “Autumn Song” from 2022’s Found Light. After that, I was stuck in a This Is the Kit listening spiral, frequently returning to the aforementioned “Earthquake” but occasionally alternating with “Keep Going” from 2020’s album Off Off On.
This Is the Kit’s latest Careful of Your Keepers is no exception to the outstanding music that Stables and primary bandmates, drummer Jamie Whitby-Coles, bassist-singer Rozi Plain, and guitarist Neil Smith, have consistently created since the start. The wide-open beauty of Stables’ voice, the cleverness of her lyrics, and her finger-picked guitar (and banjo) charm anyone who listens.
One of Careful of Your Keepers‘ singles, “More Change”, in particular, keeps a steady jazz pace with the support of drummer Whitby-Coles, who is reminiscent of John Densmore of the Doors on the track. The lyrics muse about a friendship that seems to bump up against the complication of something more: “If we’re holding hands, will anybody see? If we’re holding hands, will we walk at the same speed? If we’re holding hands, will we manage not to laugh?”
The sweetly verbose “Stuck in a Room” is another highlight that shows off Stables’ vocal stamina and offers surprising flourishes of muted horns towards the end. “Careful of Your Keepers” could easily be a lost track from Suzanne Vega‘s 1992 album, 99.9F. Stables meditates on simple poetic lines while the rhythm section keeps a relaxed, almost trip-hoppy tempo. The vocals are accentuated by sprinklings of electric guitar, piano, horns, and even vibraphone.
The drowsy introductory melody of “Dibs” swells with lyrics like, “We did not have dibs on both our hearts.” Then Stables’ vocal notes rise and fall, mimicking the rollercoaster of a relationship she has (presumably) left, “Sucking the life out of you and out of me / Calling the blood back into our hands and feet / Boy, I’m talking to you are you listening?”
Ultimately, simplicity and genuine vulnerability are rarities, especially in today’s shallow and superficial musical landscape. This Is the Kit again holds listeners captive with one of the unique voices in contemporary indie folk-rock.