In the growing list of Keeled Scales label graduates, Katy Kirby is making a case to sit at the head of the table. Her 2021 debut album Cool Dry Place nestled immediately among the year’s melodic best, its 30 minutes gentle but with an obtrusive sticking power to linger well beyond its runtime. Blue Raspberry finesses the anxious melancholy of that first attempt; it’s easy listening on the surface but negotiates a queer coming-of-age into turbulent focus. She writes the giddy undulance of romantic love with such matter-of-factness that it’s more a doctor’s note than a new record, quick-witted and – at times – profound, turning heartache into diagnosis.
Named after the artificial flavour designed to sell snow-cones in the 1950s, with not a soft fruit in sight, Blue Raspberry is a manifesto for second guessing oneself. In the glossy centrepiece ‘Cubic Zirconia’, Kirby’s voice sounds as crystalline as the synthetic diamond the song takes its name from, assured of the value she’s ascribed (“You look like dollar signs… Why wouldn’t that be enough?”) But the same phrases tumble through ‘Salt Crystal’ with opposite inferences on self-worth, the metaphors a wry simplification of the mélange of humanity picked at, finding both beauty and deceit in artifice.
Lumbering tableaus continue – alternating between filmic and pedestrian – one moment, making out against the guardrails as the fly-by traffic blurs past with a chorus that lollops in like a speedbump, the next focusing on the order in which a partner adds packets of sweetener to their coffee mid break-up. The album’s strength is its overall lack of flourish: it’s an unceasing blend of boredom, charm and anxiety – and always innately human.