22 Sep 2019

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Katie Thompson - Album Review: Bittersweet

05 Sep 2019 // A review by Jacinda Selman

Bittersweet represents Katie Thompson’s return to recorded music after an eight-year hiatus - bittersweet in itself. Here Thompson presents a more developed and mature aesthetic than her previous releases. The album hints at her journey during her absence: the highs, lows and everything in between. Introspective and personal songs reach the listener profoundly through Thompson’s intimate vocal performances.

Thompson puts her best foot forward on her first track I Was Once Your Everything (see my five-star review for this single). This powerful and well-written track is a definite highlight of the album and sets the scene for much of the album’s sound – a lush and full presentation of folk-rock. Though it’s a strong song, I wonder if the intensity of this track would have been better suited to later in the album rather than used as an opener. First single and lone cover on the album, Alcohol And Pills follows. Considering the strength of her writing including a cover seems somewhat unnecessary, although it doesn’t sound out of place among Thompson’s originals.

Take Me Back is a wistful ode to the simplicity of youth. Waiting brings back the theme of romance ending in a relationship. It expresses the tension in deciding if there is still value in holding on through turbulence. This theme is neatly met by the next track Rough Seas: “If I’d have carried on through those rough seas, who knows what would become of me, I could be sailing the seven seas, or keeping Davy Jones company”. Precious Little Moments lends the listener some solace in a sweet and dreamy lullaby to the small joys of motherhood.

Seven tracks into this poignant journey we are abruptly met with Straight Talkin' Woman. The performance is impressive, and there is no question that this upbeat gritty country style is well within Thompson’s diverse skill set, yet it feels late to introduce such a radically different tone. I would have loved to have heard it earlier on the album. The narrative element in this album may have been enhanced by some tweaks to the track-list.

Rock & Roll is my favourite song on the album. Taking it down low, this song brings a dusky soul, thick ambience, and stunning vocal performance. This song has me transfixed; those who connect to this track will be rewarded many times in turn. It Ain’t Easy is a spacey and hypnotic song reminiscent of Mazzy Star. A strong ending full of movement and sway, tying up the album nicely.

Bittersweet delivers everything it promises. There are some real hard hitters in here, backed up with understated, intimate vocal performances. Whilst both the mix and the performances are very professional, at times instruments crowd each other and invade the space of the vocal. There is a little fat on the album, and the overall sound is a little washy with reverb at times for my taste. At times I felt that the drums did not serve the songs as well as they could have. The boldness of the intimacy offered in these songs is a credit to Thompson as an artist and performer. She presents as a strong, vibrant, beautiful woman.

The album is due to be released on Friday September 6th, 2019. It’s not too late to sign on to Thompson’s ‘album experience’ to hear the album early, unpack the stories behind the tracks and peak behind the scenes.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Katie Thompson

Christchurch based singer/songwriter Katie Thompson is set to release her live EP "Moving On" this May. The new tracks were recorded at Quicksand Studios in Christchurch and are a taste of what's to come.

Katie will be touring nationwide this July - details out soon. Achievements to date: Female Artist of the Year Finalist at the National Country Music Awards, opening for Elton John & receiving video funding from NZ On Air for her latest single Cruel to be Kind.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Katie Thompson


Year: 2019
Type: Album
Year: 2011
Type: Album
Tall Poppy
Year: 2009
Type: Album

Other Reviews By Jacinda Selman

Dylan Storey - EP Review: Phobos and Deimos
14 Aug 2019 // by Jacinda Selman
Dylan Storey has earned himself a strong reputation playing with and alongside a number of high profile Auckland fixtures including Bond Street Bridge, The Miltones, and The Bads. His most recent EP Phobos and Deimos adds to an already large body of well-crafted songs, mostly accompanied by a band and presented in an appealingly under-produced fashion.
Katie Thompson - Single Review: I Was Once Your Everything
06 Aug 2019 // by Jacinda Selman
Katie Thompson has just released her second single from her upcoming album, Bittersweet. After reviewing the first single, I was intrigued by the potential of the album, which explored a more developed and introspective sound than her past material.
Katie Thompson - Single Review: Alcohol and Pills
16 Jul 2019 // by Jacinda Selman
After an 8 year hiatus, folk singer Katie Thompson has returned to recorded music with her soon to be released third album Bittersweet. Teasing the album release, Thompson has released the first single Alcohol and Pills, a cover of a 1997 original by Fred Eaglesmith.
The Black Seeds - EP Review: Refabricated: Fabric Remixes and Rarities
10 Jul 2019 // by Jacinda Selman
The Black Seeds are a New Zealand household name synonymous with cruisy summer afternoons. Their dub, roots, and reggae influenced sound has earned them an established reputation as masters of the groove - and their latest offering does not disappoint.
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Little Ripples, a Northland-based acoustic act, have been busy touring their unique brand of child-centred family folk, bringing their first album to many new fans, and becoming something of a staple for the 95bFM kids show. Their relaxed vibe and acoustic tones immediately conjure feelings of a quiet Sunday at home.
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