This blog post is written by our friend John Schlenner about Kat Lock’s debut EP. If you’re interested in contributing a blog post, feel free to shoot us an email at Amplify@OkSessions.com. A huge thanks to John for this insightful review. Cheers!
Kat Lock’s music has always seemed at once both easy and difficult to classify. The overarching style of her solo project is clearly of an indie rock nature (similar to that of her former band, St. Basic), but she’s never seemed to fit neatly into a particular corner of that genre like other musicians and bands in the OKC/Norman scene.
One thing that’s always been obvious, however, is that Lock is a masterful songwriter with the potential to put out a breakout album, and that potential is realized on You Again, her debut EP as a solo artist. Filled with clear-eyed lyrics about the shortcomings of past relationships and set against extremely catchy guitar and piano riffs, it’s an excellent introduction to her work, and a fantastic listen while driving around with the windows down on a warm summer evening in OKC.
The EP gets off to a strong start with the opening song, “Art,” a slow-building story about an on-again/off-again romance. Multiple layers of keys and subtle tambourines provide a unique backdrop as Lock sings about the incendiary combination of her mistakes (“I drove far just to walk around, and now I can’t stop crying”) and her partner’s bad decisions, a combination that finally goes up in smoke about two-thirds of the way through the song as she finally stands up for herself, proclaiming “baby, don’t you lie to me and call it art,” a triumphant moment that immediately leads into a memorable solo from lead guitarist Matt Swann.
Things turn decidedly more uptempo with the second track, “Biggest Mistake,” which features an extremely catchy, high register guitar riff along with an excellent horn section from Garrison Brown, a veteran of the OKC jazz scene. Lock sings with silky-smooth vocals about the conundrum of whether to pursue a high-risk/high-reward relationship, or whether to settle for a “realistic romance”. It’s a subject that will likely be easy for many listeners to relate to, and it’s a song that will certainly be easy for everyone to sing along to, with a wonderful chorus and well-placed harmonies from fellow OKC indie rockers Sophia Massad and Mackenzie Fox (who also goes by Layers of Pink).
The middle track of the EP, “Demitrius,” serves as a sort of transitional song, as Lock sings in reverb drenched vocals against a jangly guitar riff about someone important to her who was gone before his time. It’s stirring stuff, especially as Lock repeats a single word (Bohemia) three times into a hazy, minute-plus outro. It’s the type of track that lingers with you even after it fades out, and it suggests that Lock could tread in dream-pop territory on future records if she wanted to.
The unquestioned climax of You Again, in my opinion, is the fourth track, “Embarrassed.” The song opens with Lock playing a melancholy piano melody as she slowly comes to terms with the fact that her partner isn’t nearly as good of a guy as she had imagined. It’s a tough spot to be in, and the whirlwind of tempo changes throughout the song (five in total) creates an unsettled atmosphere that allows listeners to understand the plight of someone who’s the victim of an emotionally abusive relationship. It’s impossible not to cheer for Lock as the melody turns uptempo in the second and third verses and she goes on the attack against her partner’s manipulative behavior, and “Embarrassed” hits a tremendous high point on the very last line as Lock asks her partner, “Do you think that it’s okay?” She holds the final note of that line for an entire eleven seconds as the song speeds up momentarily before crashing to an abrupt halt, implicitly answering that question in the negative. It all adds up to an incredibly satisfying anthem about overcoming the emotional scars that result from a relationship in which one is being gaslighted.
The EP comes to an end with “Someone Else’s Future.” Played at a somewhat languid pace, it’s an undeniably relaxing conclusion to what was at times an intensely charged journey. Lock sings about the breakdown of a relationship in which she has more invested than her partner, but the stakes are clearly lower than in previous songs, and the mildly sardonic tone of the lyrics reflects this. The relationship in question isn’t going anywhere, but you also get the sense that Lock knew this was a possibly from the start, and isn’t particularly concerned about the outcome. It’s all sung against an incredibly pleasant soundscape, and even given the subject matter, it seems likely to leave most listeners with a warm feeling when all is said and done.
It’s been just about a full calendar year since Kat Lock first started performing as a solo artist, and while her work has stayed somewhat under the radar thus far, the release of You Again should do a lot to change that. June was a fantastic month for the OKC indie scene, as bands such as Poolboy, Spinster, and Audio Book Club all put out incredible new recordings and played album/EP release shows to packed crowds at venues such as Opolis and 51st Street Speakeasy.
In my opinion, You Again is definitely on par with all three of those recordings, and my hope is that it will bring Lock the recognition she deserves, as I’ve long felt that she has been one of the more underappreciated musicians in the OKC/Norman scene.