Katrin | Frail to Fearless
album review by John Powell
There was a point in singer/songwriter haven when pop could be threaded into stories of making it, making up, making out, and getting out. Tales of woe were dashed with feminism. Jewel, Natalie Imbruglia, and Sixpence None the Richer is a short list of women that paved the way for this; how to be soft and hard at the same time.
Katrin’s Frail to Fearless harkens back to that age. She’s somewhat of a drifter, somewhat of a storyteller. She bares her heart on these ten tracks, playing guitar and singing with a long list of a band, with focuses on guitar layers, soft drumming (sometimes hand percussion), and piano. None of the songs are grandiose- no horns or strings.
On “Home” she comes in with beautiful music, light acoustic pop. “Someone turn the light on/’cuz I can’t see,” she says, and you know it’s a metaphor when she adds, “Is anybody home?” Right away Katrin comes off as a different kind of songwriter. Yes, she’s conventional in that verse-chorus-verse-bridge regard, but she says, “Slap me on the butt/ call me a slut,” and she says it smooth enough to show that it’s dirt off her shoulder.
“Enough” is somewhat of a buzzkill right away. It’s a bit too singer/songwriter. It comes off cheesy, like a Dawson’s Creek soundtrack. Please! Don’t let me fool you: that show perfectly encapsulated the heart of the era and the human condition- just like music of this kind does… but you have to buy into it. The guitars later launch into a near grunge experience before trickling into finger picking interlude. It’s well-thought out instrumentation for sure.
The same applies to “Ivy”, something 90s pop lovers will gorge on. The “Do do do” singalong is infectious. “When I think about the climbing ivy/ she just knows she wants to touch the sky,” Katrin sings over light guitar and cymbal flourishes.
A key track is “Far Away”. The heavy drums come out and the music swirls in pretty-like. “I’m just sitting in my room/ watching the cars go by,” she starts off, so she sets the scene. Then she talks about Jimmy, the guy she’s dating. “I don’t remember how I got here,” she tries, “but the sex must have been good.” The chorus is as catchy as anything.
Katrin has a great voice, a toggle between gruff, sincere, and just plain good. She sounds like she could sing everything from gospel to punk, given the backing band. Her roots come from the Boston streets, which she sings about in “Cobblestones”. It starts off poorly. The chorus is “I sang out my joy/ I sang out my pain.” It’s quite sincere, if not a little too Dawson’s Creek.
A cover of Zeppelin’s “That’s the Way” ends the album. It does the original justice and it’s awesome to hear a woman sing out Zeppelin. Overall, this is much of Katrin- a keen sense of hook and lyricism. Frail to Fearless is a story of growth, and much like the teen dramas I’m referring to, if you buy in you’ll realize you feel it. You really feel it. It’s what you were trying to say, but didn’t have the words.
Bottom line: Acoustic pop singer/songwriter set of songs about getting through the hard times and finding your place in this world.