Before even getting into Katie Von Schleifher’s Shitty Hits you’ve understood a level of self deprecating humor that underlies the record. Punctuating the ups and downs. Shitty Hits opens with “The Image” a maddening choice and inclusion for this record. Bordering on the bland side, the track is neither compelling or lustrous as much of the rest of the album.
Shitty Hits immediately redeems itself as it switches into “Midsummer” — an astounding track, even more so in comparison to what preceded it. The track scratches out “Did I tell you I tried to be kind / To be better, believe me” an apology and explanation, uttered both as repentance and as reality. “Midsummer” becomes more powerful and haunting the further away you get from it, routinely finding it in hidden corners and quiet places. By the end of the track Shitty Hits already feels more pointed and acidic, a combination of internally directed low blows, searing honesty and self acceptance.
But before you get comfortable Von Schleicher moves back into a questionable crawlspace with “Paranoia.” Sonically, the song brings Von Schleicher’s wheelhouse into focus. A maximalism that almost tricks you into ignoring the bleakness of the situation. Sweeping sounds layered on top of an under current of lo-fi crackling that runs through the record, reflecting Katie’s analogue-four-track beginnings. The sound is too boppy though and feels (in spite of a better word) too normie.
The first three tracks do establish consistency though, namely the record’s ability to fill a room — it’s behemoth, it’s loud and unrepenting. But as soon as you’ve got the record pinned down, it shrinks into itself with “Soon” which is too broken to be described as crooning but the closest the album gets to it. Shitty Hits revisits it’s bareness and soft vulnerability (versus the rest of the record’s signature abrasiveness) with “Mary” and “Hold.” Both of which function as interludes to the noise and the clamor. Moments of peace brought on by fatigue.
The record returns to highs with “Nothing” and “Isolator.” The former full of grinding noise that feels like the clanking of a cold empty box. Katie pushes out “no one who wanted any more / could have any less” a line that may as well be the mission statement of the album. Describing both the symbiotic relationship between maximalism and stark nakedness, the self acceptance brought on by knowing how deep the pit of despair can get. “Isolator” in turn showcases the full range of Von Schleicher’s vocal manipulation, a tool often forgone by female vocalists in favor or obnoxiously earnest bellowing.
“Life’s A Lie” rounds out the record and feels like the most poignant example of dark humor the title promises. A phrase I’ve probably uttered when trying to nonchalantly describe the way my life’s falling apart. The track has depth though and recounts the struggle of what is essentially imposter syndrome — the feeling that you’ve bamboozled everyone, yourself included. The track functions as a sonic midpoint on the record, layering the harsh peculiarity of “Nothing” to the overly boppyness of “Paranoia.”
Playing in the background Shitty Hits creates a sense of eerie nostalgia. When Lester Bangs interviewed Lou Reed following Metal Machine Music, Lou Reed insisted that the public (and even the critics) had misunderstood the record. It wasn’t just white noise for the sake of noise or an attempt to alienate his fanbase (a happy coincidence) — Reed was creating sonic allusions to classical music masterpieces through the machines, distortion and chaos. Although not as extreme, Shitty Hits gives off a familiar sense of familiarity as though Katie Von Schleicher is recounting familiar love ballads through a barren, arid filter.
Anything short of the experimentation grated through the passage of Shitty Hits would be difficult to swallow. As someone who has worked in the music industry, at a label nonetheless, the worst thing Katie could have done was come out with some boring or emulative. The record however, is not. By finding a type of bareness, openness and ability to own up to the processes of the mind, embrace the many roads into chaos and understand there are fewer roads out, Katie Von Schleicher has created a record that finds its power in it’s ownership of contradictions.
Shitty Hits is Katie Von Schleicher’s debut full length LP and is out today on Ba Da Bing. Katie Von Schleicher’s record release show is Friday August 4th at Union Pool. 21+, tickets and details here.