Words: Josh Fundafunda
This album is full of poise. It’s been 17 years since This is the Kit began releasing music, and by now Kate Stables and the rest of the group have immaculate control over the music they make. The contemporary folk band has continually reinvented the wheel with their own sound. On This is Kit's new album, Careful Of Your Keepers, their formula is fairly straightforward; thoughtful composition with warm chords, controlled percussion, and reoccurring horn sections keeps things interesting across the albums’ half an hour run-time. Of course, there is Stable’s own vocal performance which the instrumentation builds around. The album plays like a modern take on Bluegrass, fitting for a band that began in the West-Country.
Take Scabby Head and Legs, whose contained drum lines and pleasant lead guitar create a strange feeling of comfort. The instruments play in stark contrast to Stables almost existential lyrics on this track; “Measuring the roots, of the tree//Deep into the ground, going deep//Choosing what to keep, treasure chest//Painful letting go, of the rest”. Her repeated questioning throughout the song feels like she’s reaching out for some semblance of an answer in the dark. Perhaps this album being put together over the last two years has led to this feeling of instability.
It's not all doom and gloom though. Stuck in a Room is a great allegory to raising a baby – the back and forth between Kate and her daughter share is upbeat and heart-warming despite the chaos children bring. The ups and downs Stables recollects feel like the memories of a happy childhood in the making. Down to Earth hand drums and simple maracas pull the song to-and-fro while Kate sings that it’s “Good to be honest but stings a bit too”.
The band has seen a rotating roster of members who drift in and out as time has gone on – 17 years is a long time after all. The likes of Neil Smith, Jim Barr, and Rozi Plain, most of whom have other music careers of their own, all have given their time and talents to the group both on record and in live performance. It’s a wonderful aspect of This is the Kit’s catalogue of music, as each album will have its own personal touch – Kate being the anchor.
Take Inside Outside for example, Kate’s rolling repeating lyrics lead the way on this song, with the guitar and drums following suite. Ultimately, it’s a song about heartfelt connection, one that Stables weaves carefully with her potent lyrics. The feeling of not wanting to a moment with someone to change is universal, and she gets that across wonderfully saying, “All the molecules were focused on your next move//Didn’t mean to move, didn’t mean for it to move you”. It's no wonder why This is the Kit has had a steady stream of attention fixed on them over the years.
Dibs is probably my favourite from the whole album. It’s a song that creates a refreshing feeling of nostalgia with each listen. Mellow pianos and a soft lead-guitar plucks throughout the song, while Kate muses on the heart, connection and running out of time. The way she arranges each sentence, each verse, is really captivating. Her singing “Since the beginning of time, man out of time//Let’s pretend not to know that we’re out of time” is bittersweet. She does well to give you the space and time to think how each part of the song relates to the others, and vice versa. Another touching moment, and a perfect way to close out their seventh album.