Shitty music has never sounded so good.Ba Da Bing Records, 2017
Purchase: Bandcamp / Amazon
8.5 / 10
With a name like Shitty Hits, you might think this album will be ironic. Or you might think that it is self-aware, winking at you before you even give it a listen. You might expect it to be an early attempt to distance itself from its own material. Not unlike Faith No More’s Album of the Year, an album the band recognized as “bad music” but released anyway. But you’d be wrong about Katie von Schleicher‘s new album. This record is as impassioned, personal, and immediate as anything you may hear this year. The name, however, is fitting: it’s a marriage of trash and pop, a combination of melody and misery.
Or, to put it as von Schleicher does:
Shitty Hits, plural noun: Good-time songs you can have a bad night with, driving alone. You’re crying but it feels pretty wonderful. You call someone and you say “I’m sorry I’ve had too much reverb,” they say “no, baby, it’s the modulation.” The night air starts to modulate. The songs are terrible and absolutely have to be this loud.
The most striking thing about Shitty Hits is how sincere von Schleicher is here. I don’t think it’s out of line to say that most DIY music projects are detached. Ariel Pink is a good comparison point for some of von Schleicher’s crunchy pop music. The guy 1) can’t deliver an earnest performance, and 2) doesn’t write music that has any personal touches whatsoever. Shitty Hits, on the other hand, starts with the earnest “The Image”. It’s a hell of a lead track that somehow von Schleicher didn’t release as a single to promote this record. The song, in and of itself, has a familiar premise: good relationship gone bad. But what makes it such a stellar song is that it feels both off-the-cuff and very serious. She delivers the music with a confidence that is in different conflict with the nervous, insecure lyrics.
Art is all about communication. However, the way the artist conveys the message (read: thoughts, ideas, feelings) is vastly different across music. Sometimes you’ll get a Radiohead. On Kid A and The King of Limbs, they didn’t invite an audience to hear their message as much as they dared them to. It’s almost as if they were saying, “Here are our ideas. Listen or don’t, we don’t really care.” That’s the kind of attitude that brands you as “cerebral” for some reason. I bring this up because it’s the opposite approach to Von Schleicher.
Her music is catchy and engaging, but it’s a trap. The piano lick from “Life’s a Lie” sounds fun and playful, but it will lead you into a song about, well, just check out the title. Shitty Hits coats miserable feelings in honey and sugar. However, I may be exaggerating here to a degree. Von Schleicher isn’t nihilistic, and she doesn’t come across as a strictly miserable person. On the aforementioned “Life’s A Lie”, she dreams “I wish I could do something nice for you/ Like hold your hand while you’re sleeping.” Nevermind the intrusive thoughts that follow this line. KVS has a heart of gold — sometimes dark ideas and insecurities obscure it.
And even though the album just came out, Shitty Hits already feels like listeners might look over it this year. That’s a shame because it’s one of the year’s best: purely enjoyable from start to finish.
“Life’s a Lie”
Todd Rundgren. Myrabirds.