02-06-2024 Music 291

Kate Bollinger - Songs From A Thousand Frames Of Mind

Kate Bollinger - Songs From A Thousand Frames Of Mind

On Songs From A Thousand Frames Of Mind, the kaleidoscopic full-length debut from Kate Bollinger, entire worlds lie in the small details. “When I’m recording a song,” the Charlottesville-born, Los Angeles-based songwriter observes, “my indication of whether it’s worth pursuing is if I’m seeing a movie in my head to go along with it.” Blending classic pop songcraft with scrappy punk instincts, Bollinger casts a collage-like vision that’s instantly memorable and uniquely mystifying. Ranging from homespun folk songs to warmly rendered psychedelic rock—like early Rolling Stones as fronted by Hope Sandoval—the resulting album can feel like flipping through your coolest friend’s record collection, finding a new favorite song with each discovery.

In order to summon this majestic blend of styles, Bollinger spent years cultivating material, challenging herself to work with new collaborators while moving across the country from her native Virginia to California. Evolving the hermetic approach of her early EPs and solo performances, she arrived at a fuller sound based on intuitive responses and in-the-moment energy. “I came to this realization that most of my favorite music is the result of friends, or players who have known each other a long time, coming together and playing live in the room,” she observes. Armed with endless hooks and wildly shifting textures, Bollinger can seem as much like a songwriter as an art-house auteur, crafting the soundtrack and scenery for a non-existent movie. (Fittingly, Bollinger studied film in college, and she also directed the striking music video for Jessica Pratt’s recent single “World on a String.”)

Several highlights from the record were co-written with Spacebomb Records mastermind Matthew E. White, such as the jangle-pop gem “Any Day Now” and the theatrical “I See It Now.” After months of writing in Richmond and Los Angeles, Bollinger traveled to upstate New York to record with producer Sam Evian (Big Thief, Blonde Redhead, Cass McCombs), with whom she developed a similar kinship. Alongside her longtime friend and drummer Jacob Grissom, she formed a group of tight-knit collaborators able to match her wide-ranging inspiration, spanning from ’60s icons like Françoise Hardy and the Velvet Underground to ’90s touchpoints like No Doubt and Pavement. "In some way, this album feels like my musical debut. I feel that I’ve finally been able to express all sides of myself in one record."

For Bollinger, the connective tissue between this disparate material is often unspoken but always deeply felt. “Songwriting is kind of like dreaming,” she explains. “They both tend to reveal to me what I don't yet consciously know. I thought of the album title before most of the songs were written, but it became a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way that tends to happen in a lot of my music.” As a lyricist, Bollinger expresses herself through subtle imagery and surrealist stream-of-conscious narratives, allowing listeners to arrive at their own interpretation. When she touches on the rise and fall of romantic relationships, there is an almost therapeutic quality to her writing. In the lilting, empathetic “To Your Own Devices,” she follows a sunswept melody to deliver a series of hushed, second-person observations: “Now you’re in a pinch/The mirror makes you flinch,” she sings. “And all this time, were you not making sense?”

In the baroque swirl of opener “What’s This About (La La La La),” Bollinger and her band conjure a sense of cartoonish whimsy that places her in league with the mystical pop greats of the Elephant 6 Collective, a scene whose idiosyncratic spin on the classic rock era helped inform the patchwork sprawl of her record. The cumulative effect reveals the vast range of Bollinger’s vision. “I like when something is a balance of opposites,” she notes, and her tender approach as a songwriter and bandleader makes these juxtapositions feel as natural as a singalong with friends. The haunting “Sweet Devil” smolders like a jazz standard as interpreted by Feist at her smokiest and most intimate; the dramatic outro of “I See It Now” has a romping energy that feels suited for a climactic showdown at a saloon; the breezily psychedelic “Postcard From A Cloud” plays like a dreamworld collaboration between Teenage Fanclub and Broadcast, finding the warm, melodic center of their Venn Diagram.

Written during a period of transience and change, Songs From A Thousand Frames Of Mind was made to resemble a mixtape—something carefully crafted and delivered from just one person to another. In sharing this music with listeners, Bollinger took inspiration from her own formative encounters with art: quietly worshiping the early musical projects of her older brothers, attending local shows in Charlottesville and feeling empowered to write songs of her own, inheriting burned CDs from older classmates and finding a portal to another world. (Working with her friends Emma Collins and Evangeline Neuhart on the visual accompaniment, Bollinger assures the entire project feels equally communal and intuitive.) Sublimating a lifetime’s worth of musical connections into a concise 11 songs, Songs From A Thousand Frames Of Mind captures a rare sense of purpose and ambition for a debut record, managing to feel cozily familiar while still packed full of surprises. And in her gently playful and emotionally resonant performances, Bollinger sounds as enraptured by the mystery as anyone.


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