October 19, 2020 Kiirstin Marilyn – There Are No Cats In America (Album Review)
Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, Kiirstin Marilyn is making music with a singing mouse named Fievel—and the streets are paved with cheese. If you know, you know. If not, well, you can learn all about how There Are No Cats in America when the AltPop songstress delivers her debut full-length on Friday, October 23, 2020.
Kiirstin Marilyn is no shrinking violet: the New York City singer-songwriter and activist has a lot to say and you’d better pay close attention. A vegan and human rights activist, her powerful convictions understandably inform the lyrical content on her genre-bending debut collection. Produced by Adam Tilzer (Beck, Giselle), the 13-song LP contrasts heavy hitting electronic elements with sweet and often despondent vocals, all as Marilyn tells her unique story. The daughter of an immigrant, an empath, as well as an anti-capitalist, the vocalist’s fiery spirit shines like diamonds on There Are No Cats in America.
White noise and news snippets open up the album’s first track, the just under two-minute intro, “Algus.” When the time is ripe, Marilyn steps in with a spoken word moment that provides foreshadowing of what is to come; and she’s unfiltered as she shares lines like “The world is arrogant and cold.” For what we will deem the ‘proper’ first track, “The Greatest Generation,” the singer-songwriter details an autobiographical tale of a girl who doesn’t quite belong, but that’s okay, because everyone’s confused. Here, she uses her own background as a stepping stone for exploring generational attitudes that are backed by relaxing atmospherics.
How will you pass the time before you die? This theme is explored in the aptly-titled “Legacy,” with bass anchoring Marilyn’s velvety vocals as she explores legacy, justice, reality, and more. But what follows, if you’re one of those ‘90s kids who reads the title “Something in the Way” and thinks of Nirvana, is a deliciously emotive surprise. In a beautifully intimate cover of the haunting Cobain and co. classic, the talented siren weaves her angelic vocals through synth symphonics as she does the original proud.
As she heads into the middle section of the LP, there’s an injection of gothic sensibilities on “The Dark,” a personal look at destruction, while ‘60s R&B and girl groups like the Shirelles influence “Like a Dream.” The latter opens to acoustic guitar before evolving into a bold, cinematic feel as Marilyn welcomes fellow vocalists Giselle, Jordan Popky, and Anne Marie Nacchio to help out. The wonderful nostalgia of the track sets a mood that segues into the funky bass lines and cosmic bubbles of “Like Ice Is.” A saccharine sweet condemnation of inserting yourself into and dominating every situation imaginable, this is possibly the strangest (political) dance song that you will hear this year.
Opening with a sound bite from President Ronald Reagan, the sweeping Broadway-style “No Country For Odd Men” is an indictment of the war machine and, to a lesser degree, religion and corporate America. Another showstopper, it flows flawlessly into the dainty middle finger to consumerism, “The American Dream.” Here, she spins sonic candy floss as she not-so-subtly reminds us that this so-called dream was founded on genocide. Giselle, Popky, and Nacchio return to guest on the track, along with Paola Bennet, Yify Zhang, the Defectives, Elijah Mann and Dr. Blum.
Again, the flow of the album is superb as Marilyn drifts into a cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.” Dr. Blum returns for the track, which drips with an acidic Americana. All of this sets the stage for “The Takers,” an exploration of the darkness of humanity, which leads into “A.E.T.A. (Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act).” Titled after an actual 2006 U.S. federal law, this warrior’s chant for the animals, whose lives matter, places Marilyn’s vegan activism at center stage. With some help from Tk the Artist, Disl Automatic, Raydar Ellis and Freakquencee, she delivers a Hip-Hop attack on corporate interests over animal rights.
But it all comes to an end with “Feminism Is the Radical Notion That Women Are People.” With the aid of Giselle, Nacchio, Bennet, Popky, Zhang and Benjamin Wright, the diverse songstress delivers a spoken word rant on the double standard, pay discrepancies between genders, sexual assault, the smash the patriarchy movement, the idea that ‘boys will be boys,’ and more. Psychotic electronics back her as she gets emotional, and it’s easy to see how personally invested she is in every topic that she addresses. As the track begins to close out, the ladies remind us that “My honor is not in my vagina,” while Marilyn promises that women are the stronger sex.
So let’s just cut the crap and be honest: if you think the idea of women being equal to men is ‘progressive,’ then There Are No Cats In America is not the album for you. Hell, Kiirstin Marilyn is not the woman for you! On her debut disc, there are few genres that this talented spitfire doesn’t tackle and few topics that she won’t willingly address. What’s more, the diverse singer-songwriter proves herself to be able to cross fluidly from AltPop to R&B to Hip-Hop and back, never once losing her stride.
For the provocative Marilyn, the music is superb but it’s merely a foundation for her lyrical content which is Punk Rock at heart. In this, Marilyn is apt to appeal to fans of other outspoken and intelligent female artists, such as the always brilliant Amanda Palmer. But however you opt to file Marilyn’s music, we suggest you not ignore this diamond in the rough. Big fans, Cryptic Rock gives Kiirstin Marilyn’s There Are No Cats In America 5 of 5 stars.