K. Flay released an album on July 12, 2019, and it’s full of self-love and good vibes making it the ultimate summer album.
K. Flay has long been alternative’s angsty queen, her raspy, yearning voice seeming to plead to the audience on every song. Her most recent album release, Solutions, different. She’s honest as ever, willingly vulnerable calling to her past sounds on tracks like “Wishing it Was You” and her last album Every Where is Some Where. Flay fuses together the EDM and alt worlds seamlessly. She uses funky, heavily mixed piano chords and synth beats to magically create loose melodies. Verses and choruses are strung together with minimal consistency, following K. Flay’s natural sway, singing how and what she feels when she feels it.
The 37 minute album begins with a self-love jam. “I Like Myself (Most of the Time)” is the alternative genre’s Hot Girl Summer anthem. In this opener, K. Flay criticizes social media culture singing, “I don’t think I’m too fat or too skinny for that matter/
I see photos of vacations and I know they’re faking laughter.” It’s an explicit call-out to the performative nature of these apps who promote subtle deception. Even in this critique, Flay is more honest than most, admitting that even those who are great at practicing self-love can falter, “I like myself/most of the time,” being open about falling to self criticism. She does it all without being too didactic, allowing the song to still be a fun sing-a-long bop.
Next on the album is “Sister,” which introduces a new form of love song. Flay openly displays strong affection for an individual by whom she knows could reject her. “Everything you do, I wanna do…Even when you’re saying that you hate me/I know that the feeling isn’t true,” an admission of slight insecurity even in a relationship Flay knows is safeguarded. She continues into the pre-chorus chanting “I wanna be your sister” before asking the unknown object of affection, “Do you wanna be mine?” Flay grants her unidentified potential sister the genuine opportunity to reject the relationship, flipping the narrative that family is strictly by blood and close friendships can’t transcend certain forms of intimacy. In constructing her song this way, Flay displays that even in blood, familial bonds acting as one’s sister, ideally a loving and caring individual with whom she can withstand all conflict is an active, ongoing choice. She imagines sisterhood, what it consists of, and asks us to take part in her ideal sibling companionship which includes highs, lows, and multiple expressions of love. Sisterhood becomes a relationship to op into rather than one thrust upon the individual. The song is refreshing and underlines Flay’s reliable nature, “When you call me up, I’ll be at your door.”
“Ice Cream” begins with a beat, made strictly from a hand clap, that highlights the youthful nature of the song. K. Flay’s dry, monotone voice begins lamenting her woes. “You’d rather be with her and I’d rather be with you,” she crones, as her real problem is laid out flat; she’s caught in a love triangle. It’s a struggle that seems to plague everyone of all ages, nodding to Flay’s decision to underscore the chorus with a traditional nursery rhyme chorus. “You are my ice cream/you make my brain freeze,” she cries out, a simple, explicit way of admiring her lover that got away.
“Not in California” is all about the rugged electric guitar. Flay draws out the coarseness of her voice to match the discord of her background instrumentals, the screechiness of strings and intense boom of percussion somehow coming together to create cohesive sound. Above the fun, scratchy sound though is a more important and poignant message. Flay, in the roughly three-and -a-half minute track exposes the state of political affairs in the United States; “The birds all died and the trees caught fire/And the government, it called us crazy.” It’s a call-out on passive participation in politics, ignorance about impending environmental disaster, and a wishing to return back to California before we “Traded all our sunshine in for a storm.” The message is powerful without being overbearing and commands the listener to pay a little closer attention to the lyrics each time the track plays through.
Closing the album is “DNA.” Stunning and hollow, electronic melodies fill my headphones as the song begins. I’m hypnotized, lost in the jumpy synth, the sultriness of K. Flay’s voice. This song is different, raw in a way that speaks to personal experience, a song entirely for Flay herself. Of course her listeners can find their own stories, within the soft melody. But it’s the story of Flay’s self actualization and discovery, an honest telling of trying to separate herself from a parent she feels she cannot separate from: “But I made up my mind/That I don’t want to be like you/But either way, I got you in my DNA.” And it’s true, at the core pieces of herself are innate, “People say I look like you/They say that I got your eyes,” and she contends with the inevitability of being associated with this parental figure to whom she feels no connection. But she goes on, as many young people do while growing up, and begins to better understand her father’s position, perspective, and effort. “Now I’m the same age you were when you had me/And I’m not ready to be anybody’s daddy.” The track is freeform, following a rhythm and beat that allows Flay to sing these notes as though they are an open letter for her and her father only and not a song on a hot summer album. The song, and the album, wind down with forty-five seconds of fuzzy mixing and array of bass and percussion: a designated time for reflection.
As the album closes, I’m left thinking about the title of the album, Solutions, and the way K. Flay has detailed confrontations, struggles, and hopes throughout the ten songs on the release. I realize though Flay has not given any explicit solution for any of her trials, and by extension ours, but has shown us how to find resolutions in and of ourselves and that some opportunities for solutions are not within our jurisdiction. In those times, we must accept them. She doesn’t know how to solve the planet’s environmental issues, unresolved conflict with her father, or how to contend with a loved one who might not want to be her sister back, but she understands autonomy and the importance of reflection. She invites us to be vulnerable in the confusion and indecision, and I’m grateful that she has given us space and those forty-five seconds at the close of “DNA” to be vulnerable and to reflect with her.