If you took the confessional lyrics of indie pop and married them to the catchy hooks, layered harmonies, and reliable chord progressions of the great 60s girl groups and you would come close to describing the appeal of Keen Garrity.
I call it “indie-shoop,” but Garrity, raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, calls her genre “storybook pop rock,” and it’s those stories that make Garrity’s debut album so worthy. To tell her stories, she combines a remarkably unaffected, plain-spoken voice with a surprisingly savvy understanding of different pop styles.
The title track on “Get Big,” smack in the middle of the 8-song set, seems to have the structure of a traditional Appalachian murder ballad, bringing to mind similar dark dives like The Band Perry's “Better Dig Two.” Then the chorus kicks in, and the harmonies serve to soften the impact of the brutally specific lyrics. In more than a couple tracks on ‘Get Big,’ the listener goes from Tori Amos circa 1995 back to the Marvelettes of 1965.
That specificity, lyrically, makes Keen Garrity an artist to watch moving forward. The key is the details. Although this is only a ‘country’ sounding album around the edges (and in the occasional slight twang in Garrity’s voice), the sharply-observed tales here show a songwriter (Garrity) in the tradition of Jones (‘The Grand Tour’) and Kristofferson (‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’).
The song “Broken One” is a moody gem, with words so raw they’re almost uncomfortable to hear. And the instrumental flourishes are well-placed--Garrity herself did a fine job programming the various drum and bass patterns, and she contributes effective keyboard textures throughout.
Keen Garrity is clearly a smart songwriter—sometimes distractingly smart, to the point of being a bit too clever. You don’t often come across words like ‘moldering’ and ‘brackish,’ unless you’re on one of those ‘prog rock cruises.’ But nitpicks aside, Garrity has a confidence that can pull off the occasional overwrought lyric; in addition, her vulnerability is balanced with a wry sense of humor, so the album never feels self-indulgent.
Her confidence comes to the fore in the propulsive track, “What You Put In It, backed by a marching beat, while album closer, “Statuesque,” chugs along over a similar martial beat, with more than a dash of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” in the surfy guitar solo.
In fact, amidst all the stylistic shape-shifting, the through-line would have to be forward motion. Even though each individual story is about a specific moment, it always feels like Garrity is rushing to tell us her next story, and she’s crafted a collection that invites us to go along for the ride.