Lola Kirke is an open book. Her debut full-length record Heart Head West is a tell-all of sorts, about the inner workings of her brain – her insecurities, pressures she’s up against, pain and rejection she sometimes feels, and savored moments of clarity and self-acceptance. Shared with us through the smoky haze of Kirke’s rich voice, her lyrics offer us a hand to hold when we’re feeling these things, too. Heart Head West is Americana with a slightly retro wink, as hints of fiddle peek through Kirke’s swooning harmonies.
Album opener and lead single “Monster” is a standout, and the way Kirke sings it is like one big, beautiful sigh. She’s breathy but controlled as she wonders, “what if nothing’s right?” It’s a song about longing to fit in somewhere, to find a purpose when nothing makes any sense. It hits that familiar sense of existential dread we all feel, but confronts it with a shrug rather than an anxiety attack. Her voice is at its moony best on “Simon Says”, and “Turn Away Your Heart” will have you slipping into your comfiest cowboy boots and swaying your hips along as Kirke toes the line between optimism and self-doubt.
Kirke’s love for country music and classic pop comes through in every note of Heart Head West. We hear moody, twangy notes of Patsy Cline mixed with cool, melodic hints of Big Star. Building on the earthy honesty of her self-titled 2016 EP, she melds a deep appreciation for an old school sound with smart, funny feminism and a rejection of patriarchy’s expectations of her. Kirke masters the delicate balance of making strong statements about what it means to be a woman today without taking herself too seriously. On “Supposed To” Kirke uses a cow punk arrangement and sly sense of humor to express her feelings of confinement and never measuring up. And on the sultry heartbreak ballad “Sexy Song”, she stares her desires right in the face and challenges the listener not to shame her for it.
Heart Head West has all the rhinestone shimmer of a fresh Opry suit, and the strong voice of a woman fearlessly sharing her darkest corners to hopefully shed a little more light.