Hidden Gems: K.Flay - Life as a Dog

Joe Molander makes the case for K.Flay's debut album

Joe Molander
19th June 2020
A lot of albums pretend to be indie, or try to capitalise on the indie sound.

You’re probably wearily well-aware of a dozen bands trying to be Arctic Monkeys, after Arctic Moneys have been drained of all fun or flare. One of these bands is probably called Fun or Flare, and Spotify could probably regurgitate an entire EP of theirs before you noticed the song changed. On the more authentic side of the indie spectrum, there’re the guitar-fuelled offerings of artists like Soccer Mommy or Lucy Dacus.

Life as a Dog is neither. It isn’t indie because it’s trying to be, or because its sound happens to fit the genre. K.Flay’s debut release was funded by fans, and peaked at just 133 in the Billboard 200, making it a genuinely home-grown effort.

K.Flay refuses to romanticise the things she discusses

The album is cataclysmically sad. “Static on the line, I hear it all the time, But I’m brighter when you make me fade” is a choice lyric, which on its own, doesn’t sound too bad. With the longing in K.Flay’s voice, though, the entire song takes on a bitter, almost self-loathing sense of regret. Tracks like 'Make Me Fade' stop the album from ever approaching a feel-good vibe, which involves no small element of risk. Lesser artists have produced work that achieves a similar tone, but only through romanticising mental health issues. Instead, K.Flay opts not to celebrate what she discusses: instead of condemning or condoning, she simply observes.

Life as a Dog catches K.Flay halfway between knowing she deserves better and believing that better is possible

Rather, when she does condemn, it isn’t forced or preachy. On the album, she proves herself capable of being excruciatingly cutting, not just to the people around her, but to herself. On 'Get It Right', she sings “I wanna stay sincere, But that kind of thing is tricky, When you give up all yourself and still the end result is iffy”. That self-deprecating incision is heard throughout the album, lending it big-hearted authenticity. If she is harsh, it seems, it’s only because she wants better, and is aware that she deserves it. The album catches K.Flay halfway between knowing she deserves more and believing that more is possible. “What I gotta figure, If it hurts is it worth it? Know that I know better, Tomorrow I could turn it around”, she sings on 'Turn It Around'.

Life as a Dog has taken on new relevance since release

turns six this month, and has gained new relevance since release. Since 2014, public discourse has awakened itself to the fact that people can’t feel good all the time. As a result, we’re told the much-repeated mantra that “it’s okay not to be okay”, but we’re not often shown it. Here is an album that isn’t okay and knows it isn’t, but wants to be. It’s trying desperately to be better, but isn’t quite sure if it’ll happen. In depicting struggle as opposed to glorifying it, it becomes far more empathetic and far less judgemental than other albums that tackle similar themes. It deserves to be seen as a gem, but certainly not to be hidden.

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AUTHOR: Joe Molander
Head of Current Affairs and co-founder of The Toon Lampoon. Politics, interviews, satire and the Courier's leading authority on frosted tips. @JoeMolander on Twitter and full portfolio available on Muckrack.

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