NPR logo First Listen: Kathryn Calder, 'Bright And Vivid'

First Listen: Kathryn Calder, 'Bright And Vivid'

Kathryn Calder's second solo album, Bright and Vivid, comes out Oct. 25.

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Kathryn Calder's second solo album, Bright and Vivid, comes out Oct. 25.

Courtesy of the artist

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There's a lot going on in the early moments of Bright and Vivid: murmured studio chatter, peals of thick feedback, a swell of synths, a Phil Spector drumbeat and some gently strummed acoustic guitar, all of which pile atop one another in sequence. But "One Two Three," the opening track on Kathryn Calder's second solo disc, is missing something besides "four": Calder herself. It's a full minute before her voice enters the din, and even then it's faint and muffled — as though she's shown up late to her own party, and would rather not make a big scene of it.

When Calder appeared on the pop scene in 2005, it was also as a latecomer, pinch-hitting with The New Pornographers when Neko Case was too busy with her solo career to tour. That Calder quickly became a full member — no easy trick, considering how many big personalities already existed in the group — speaks to something essential in her philosophy of music-making. Calder's contributions to The New Pornographers, even when she sings lead, are stealthy and subtle, more texture than melody.

Bright and Vivid, out Oct. 25, bears that philosophy out in widescreen: The music is as expansive as the title promises, but Calder seems content blending in with the landscape. It's only in the most fleeting moments that her voice, a sweet and airy instrument, leaps out of the mix to let you know she's still there.

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