Kalie Shorr’s ‘Open Book’ Is Not for the Timid
A one-word review of Kalie Shorr's new Open Book album is "courageous," but it's really much more complicated than that.
Across 13 tortured stories, Shorr reveals herself in ways a voyeur would appreciate. Names are named, addictions are detailed and accusations are made without the use of metaphor or symbolism. It's a jarring — at times uncomfortable — album to listen to from start to finish if you're not accustomed to living in your feels. Fortunately, the 25-year-old "Lullaby" singer's audience often is.
The story of Open Book is Shorr's story of heartbreak (her boyfriend of five years cheated on her), tragedy (her sister overdosed and died in January) and bad behavior (during "Vices" she paints an R-rated picture of her lying next to a man with a girlfriend). Nothing is fabricated and nothing is exaggerated, she says. A signature moment is "FU Forever." When she sings about her ex putting his hands on her during a confrontation at a party, she's not running loose with the facts, but one wants to gloss over this detail because the melody and arrangement are so delightfully plucky. Beware of the up-tempo songs on this album, Shorr's first full-length, which is due Sept. 27. They're the most devastating.
"Gatsby" is the pinnacle of torment. Push past all the emotions Shorr leads with to find sublime songwriting and brilliant use of literary devices. The lyrics on this album, while at times unhinged, specific and shocking, are also perfect for who she is, right now. She has rare grit and the kind of courage they don't manufacture on Music Row. Sonically the album comes across as disconnected at times, but one could call that an artistic decision meant to match the furniture to the color painted on the walls.
At her best (or worst if you're talking about her overall well-being), Shorr empties a purse full of crazy on the table and looks up with those vulnerable blue eyes to see how you're going to respond. That's simply not going to entertain everyone, but she'll probably tell you that trying to entertain everyone is a fool's errand. Whether Open Book tilts her career trajectory north or serves as a side road she needed to explore before continuing regular programming remains to be seen (for the record, she says it's intended to do the former), but in releasing it she's accomplished something so rare and difficult: she's written about real life — her life — without prejudice. That can't always be pretty.
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