Partly Cloudy (Catbells) – music review

Partly Cloudy is the full-length debut from the enigmatic female dream pop/folk rock artist who is most comfortable sharing her deepest, most intimate thoughts from behind her somewhat mysterious cat face mask. Most of the 13 tracks here are rooted very closely to simple acoustic guitar folk rock, with producer Billy Mohler providing just enough instrumental embellishments to allow Catbells’ dreamy lead vocal to float effortlessly over the top, with subtle guitar, keyboard and rhythmic supports.

The intimate, personal reflections in Catbells’ lyrics give expression to the nagging insecurity and uncertainty that many of us feel. It may start in isolation, as she describes in “Same As You”: “Lying on the ground I feel/painful longing I can’t heal,” but in the end it creates bonds of connection as pains are shared. Catbells may attempt to hold her feelings at a distance, as she sings in “Trying Not to Feel,” but inevitably that leads to her crying as those feeling do need to come out. In many ways, Partly Cloudy feels like a shared cathartic experience shared by the singer-songwriter and her audience.

Musically, Catbells never varies for from the mid-tempo acoustic guitar rhythms and her warm, floating vocal melodies, so Mohler brings as much variety to the proceedings as the personal nature of her work allows, adding melodic guitar parts, the occasional cello or drum machine to add to each song’s unique musical setting. On the closing track, “Riding Tides,” Catbells is on her own, singing over a simple ukulele, with only here own voice tracked as a backing vocal, not very far from the early demos that led her to create this full-length effort.

Brian Q. Newcomb
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