by Oscar Ross, Music Editor
To those who don’t yet know, talented singer-songwriter Kate Bollinger’s discography is filled with sun-washed, dreamy indie pop with her latest album Look at it in the Light being a standout release, at least for me. The project is back-to-back plucky yet melancholic songwriting, laced with this addictive mix of warbling, stereo-bouncing guitars, distorted keys, and ethereal vocals.
This is all underpinned by beautifully full-bodied drums with just the right amount of grit, cutting right through the arrangement to make your head bop. I absolutely recommend this album, as well as Bollinger’s recent single ’Running’ and her amazing appearance on 70s musical time traveller Drugdealer’s latest project: Hiding in Plain Sight.
Coming to the intimate Louisiana stage with a winning smile, support act John Myrtle played his set of 60s feeling originals. Myrtle’s records flaunt late 60s and 70s-style recordings, sonically reminiscent of Harry Nilsson, with echoey, layered vocals and plinking acoustic guitar.
In his solo, acoustic set, Myrtle threaded his arrangements into his vocals and guitar playing, getting heads moving and feet tapping with amusing tunes such as ‘Spider on the Wall’ and unreleased ‘Cyril the Slug’ which led to scattered laughter across the room every couple phrases.
Despite this seemingly laidback and lighthearted acoustic set, there is something slightly dark or ambiguous lying close beneath the surface of Myrtle’s songs. There are poignant themes of dying love, flipping usual themes of unrequited love and heartbreak for more nuanced ideas of losing the love and finding ways to express the frustration and pain that comes with breaking someone else’s heart.
This melancholic mix was evident in Myrtle’s playing of songs such as ‘Get Her Off My Mind’, ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘How Can You Tell If you Love Her?’. Myrtle made the crowd laugh as much as he silenced them with his playing, telling touring stories of cold hotel rooms and boisterous Glasgow crowds, all the while singing Kate Bollinger’s praises (not literally).
Opening her set with one of her album’s standout tracks ‘Lady in the Darkest Hour’, Bollinger already had the crowd shouting as she took the stage on a solitary rickety barstool. Bollinger’s vocals were lightly sung, throwing an intimate, silent blanket over Louisiana’s small venue space. The crowd seemed to either lean forward to hear more or lean back into the relaxing acoustic set.
Bollinger treated the audience to three unreleased tracks, all falling under Bollinger’s whimsical songwriting style. The singer told the audience little about these new songs, except one: ‘Boys in my Head’, which she described as “about going to California”. Chatting to Bollinger at the mercy stand after the show, I learned she had recently moved to L.A having been shown around a bit by California based artist Drugdealer while they were working on their absolutely awesome collab track ‘Pictures of You’.
Bollinger was also handing out some neat little Look at it in the Light matchbooks so, yes I bought a T-shirt. I’m a sucker for merch and am wildly irresponsible with my money when it comes to music, so now I have yet another white tee with another cool artist’s name on it. Money well spent in my opinion.
Despite these three unknown songs, Bollinger still catered to her close-listening fans with her latest singles. One, ‘Running’, the song that made me dive into Bollinger’s discography head first, is a fairly acoustically focused track anyway, so the live rendition was beautiful to hear as it was written.
Bollinger also played her latest cover of Jaques Dutronc’s ‘Jaime les filles’,. “I’ve never tired this without a band” nervously laughed Bollinger, “And I don’t want the first time I try it to be in France so I’m gonna try it out”, which was followed by peels of lighthearted British, naturally Francophobic laughter.
As the stripped-back acoustic set went on I began to realise something about Bollinger’s songs which I hadn’t considered as I listened to her tracks. The secret to Bollinger’s tracks is the intimacy and ease they have. This is what Bollinger brought to the stage, just her, a guitar and her songbook, bare of the dreamy accompaniment you thought was what you liked about her music. It’s like you’re looking Bollinger’s songs in the eye, rather than speaking to them over the phone.
Bollinger’s set was like hearing her songs sung whispered into a dark bedroom, as if not to wake the next room as she wrote them. Bollinger’s voice throws you up in the air with gentle lifts and lands you on the playful strums of nylon strings and the tut of her lyrics on the mic. Granted there may be hiccups with tuners, feinting audience members, false starts with lyrics, but these aren’t the things you give a sh*t about as stand and listen. You feel sung to, rather than played at.
Overall, it was an acoustic night of personal, well-written songs from support to finish. Defineitly keep your eyes peeled for when Kate Bollinger is back, as she closed her set saying “Next time I’ll be back with my band and it’ll be awesome, so come back and see us”. I very much intend to, and so should you.
Listen to John Myrtle and Kate Bollinger’s tracks here:
Photography by Oscar Ross
Have you listened to kate Bollinger's tracks yet? Probably not, because your reading this blurb instead. Click the link and get listening.