Katie Dey’s best music has long fixated on the ways humans fail to connect. On the handful of records she’s released over the past half decade, the Australian singer-songwriter has meditated on fear, loss, heartbreak, and the deep loneliness of isolation. Her 2019 album solipsisters was intentionally named for the philosophical idea that nothing exists outside one’s own mind. She acknowledged in interviews that while the record makes references to other people, to “you” and to “we,” other characters were purely hypothetical. “It’s really all just about me, because I was so totally alone while I was writing these songs,” she said. "You end up talking to yourself a lot if you’re isolated."
Dey’s digitally manipulated vocals reinforced these themes even as they obscured the literal meaning of her lyrics. The songs, while beautiful, were full of harsh glitches and sudden cuts—testaments to the troubles of forging the bonds of a relationship through technology. Sometimes intimacy can feel just out of reach.
For her fourth solo record, mydata, Dey examined similar themes but with a decidedly more optimistic attitude. She’s said that the record is directly about an “internet relationship,” but rather than focusing on feelings of distance and isolation, Dey expounds on the love and companionship that the internet can allow physically distant people to experience. “I was trying to prove to myself, maybe, that a conversation is still a conversation,” she has said. “That sex is still sex.”
Accordingly, the storm clouds of glitches and distortion have parted a bit—the connection is better, so the message is clearer. “bearing” most explicitly addresses the strange joys of internet-mediated relationships, describing the warmth you can feel just from seeing a loved one’s username pop up, or the ruination of well-kept sleep schedules just to try to spend more time with one another across vast distances. It’s a simple song, which only underscores the sentiment. Over a few burbling synth lines, Dey sings with a voice full of hope and yearning, a striking contrast to the chaos and turmoil she once wrung out of her digitally twisted compositions. Even on the record’s more intensely arranged moments, like the orchestral swells that fill "happiness," she leaves a lot of space for clarity—stripping away the fuzz and ornamentation to allow a closer glimpse at the core that’s always lived at the heart of her songs.
There are still suggestions of stormy times—the record opens with a song called “darkness” that discusses a desire to hold onto a lover’s “suicidal ideation”—but it doesn’t dwell in those moments. Every cloudy passage is soon followed by a dizzy synth passage or a Technicolor swell of strings. Sometimes mydata offers a tenuous sort of hope, but it’s hope nonetheless.
In the time since mydata was finished, the rest of the world has had to consider a lot of the same questions that Dey poses throughout the record. Forced inside, separated from the rest of the world from circumstances outside of our control, we wonder: What do commitment and community look like when you can’t sit in the same room as the people you care about? What is love without touch? Dey’s records once posited gloomy answers to these questions, miring themselves in the dark spirals that can result from long periods of seclusion. But mydata is different; it suggests the possibility of perseverance, connection, and kindness to oneself and others. Dey finds peace in knowing that this kind of love is just as real as any other.
Buy: Rough Trade
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