Katie Eastburn's music has always fully transported listeners into her world. It's a place where nothing is simple and everything is direct, where joy and sadness are soulmates, and where old and new bring out the best in each other. As one-third of the criminally underappreciated 2000s band Young People, she combined traditional song forms with the avant-garde in ways that underscored her gifts as a passionate interpreter and singer. After Young People disbanded, Eastburn's music-making was delayed by a string of family tragedies. However, she continued to write and record, first on her own and then with a group including some of the finest from New York City's avant jazz scene as well as her husband Jim McHugh and composer Ray Sweeten. Out All Night, her first album as KATIEE, announces her as a solo artist with a bold vision while sharing Young People's gift for making innovative music steeped in tradition. "Atlantic City" even opens the album with a nod to her former band, as Eastburn quotes the mysterious song from the classic film Night of the Hunter that Young People reinterpreted on War Prayers. True to form, the way she incorporates electronics into Out All Night is powerful and unexpected. "Sudden Fear" is Eastburn's own form of dance music, driven by electronic drums and saxophone that feel like the night's heartbeat and lifeblood and full of emotions that can't be contained by a four-on-the-floor beat.
When Eastburn contrasts these sophisticated sounds with old-fashioned melodies, the results are stunning: the title track's rapturous strings and brass add to a feeling of hope that's far from innocent, which somehow makes this optimism stronger and more poignant. If it's possible, Eastburn pays homage to the intense emotions and deceptively simple words and melodies within vintage songs even more effortlessly on Out All Night than she did before. Her audacious electropop reimagining of "My Forgotten Man," a song from the Great Depression-era film Gold Diggers of 1933, is a standout; though she modernizes its surroundings, its tale of economic and emotional deprivation remains relevant nearly a century later. On the harder-edged "Bad & the Beautiful," a futuristic torch song befitting Blade Runner, Eastburn blends and bends sounds and eras with a dancerly grace reflecting her background as a choreographer. A remarkable sense of motion drives Out All Night, whether on "Could"'s thrumming wordplay or the sweep of "Rilke," which begins with beats borrowed from Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing" before clarinets take it to another place entirely. Out All Night may be Art with a capital A, but its ambitions and style only heighten the power of Eastburn's words and voice. This is especially true on "The Good Times," a celebration of the moment that is profoundly moving thanks to Eastburn's keening vocals. Here and throughout the album, the way she uses sophistication to express unbridled emotion makes Out All Night her most beautiful, and most compelling, music yet.