Kate Davis

Trophy

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The third solo album by Portland native Kate Davis but her indie rock and singer/songwriter debut, Trophy was several years the making. A one-time jazz prodigy, the vocalist/bassist recorded a pair of cover albums as a teen between performances with youth orchestras, as a guest of the likes of Herbie Hancock and Ben Folds, and as a Presidential Scholar of the Arts at Kennedy Center. After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music in the early 2010s, she stayed in New York and continued to perform, gradually introducing her own material inspired by Elliott Smith and, more on-point, Ben Gibbard rather than Tin Pan Alley. Closely following the success of Sharon Van Etten's alternative hit "Seventeen," a song Davis co-wrote with Van Etten, she presents 12 indie tunes of her own. It's a sun-streaked confessional set that reveals sophisticated melodic and harmonic tendencies in addition to predictably nuanced vocals. That all takes place within largely catchy, pristine arrangements. Opening track "Daisy," for example, introduces steadily churning guitar and simple drums under a lilting vocal melody that remains crisp and clear in the mix. The song takes a couple of unexpected diversions, structurally speaking, while searching, self-examining lyrics take stock: "Neither am I good nor pure/Neither am I wise/However I am willing/To start from the ground up/So I keep growing up." Tracked live in the studio, potential earworm "Cloud" explores teen concepts of love with a lively chord-progression arc while maintaining that sound clarity. Elsewhere, and offering textural variety, the spare and sweet "I Like Myself" features only guitar, strings, and vocal harmonies as accompaniment, while "Salome" takes a grungy turn. Recalling contemporary debuts by names like Anna Burch and Madison Cunningham in terms of its polished sophistication, consistency, and fault-finding lyrics, Trophy introduces a songwriter fully formed.

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