Kate NV, ever-chameleonic and relentlessly curious, released one of the most dazzling pop albums in recent memory this year with Room for the Moon. While it reflects the same gloss as her previous albums under the moniker — as well as the tight precision of her post-punk band Glintshake — every song here is a marvel thanks to an utter refusal to compromise. In talking about the album, Kate NV has referred to each track as an imaginary friend, something made evident by the characters she portrays in various songs’ music videos. Importantly, it means that she approaches songwriting with the same seriousness one should a close relationship, finding the best ways for it to grow and flourish and shine. As such, there’s an immense joy in simply hearing Room for the Moon and its expert craftsmanship: there’s nary a note that feels unessential. Take “Ça Commence Par,” where Kate NV transforms into a modern-day Lizzy Mercier Descloux: its elastic bassline anchors a swirl of flutes, shakers, hand drums, and synths, the whole thing at once feather-light and brimming with energy. Even the decision to sing in French enlivens the track, and as Kate NV is found elsewhere on the album singing in Russian, English, and Japanese, it’s clear that even language was a thoughtful consideration for every song. Room for the Moon didn’t spring from nowhere, of course — many of its songs channel the same lively spirit of Japanese and Soviet pop music from the 1980s. This is most evident on closer “Telefon,” which interpolates Roza Rymbayeva & Arai’s “Old Telephone.” But while the vocal melody is similar, a deeper comparison of the two reveals Kate NV’s propensity for ornate arrangements — dense, without ever feeling overstuffed — and demonstrates a masterful understanding of counterpoint. Simply stated, few artists making pop music today can match such brilliance.
Published as part of Top 25 Albums of 2020 — 25-11.