Katie Bennett — with her delicate, endearing indie pop tunes under the Free Cake For Every Creature moniker — is almost unbelievably unassuming. The minimalist approach she brings to her music seems to stem from a deeper personal ideology. Recorded at her Philadelphia home with friends and frequent collaborators, the project’s second album seems entirely devoid of any dishonesty or falsehood. Filled with soft-spoken confessions of uncertainty and naked ruminations on romance, The Bluest Star is an intimate window into the emotional core of an exposed soul.
Infectious even in moments of genuine grief, the record is filled with dreamy tunes that would feel right at home on a mixtape made for a burgeoning adolescent crush. Like many songwriters of her ilk, Bennett is fascinated by life’s simple pleasures, such as the aimless joys of adolescence on “Riding Into the Sunset in a Busted Car” or allowing herself to be truly vulnerable in a new relationship on “Around You.” In these intimate moments, she takes the concise approach of a short story writer, focusing on seemingly innocuous details in order to paint a hefty portrait of humanity. Whether she is sifting through blissful young love or debilitating self-doubt, Bennett is an open book, processing her emotional journey along with the listener: “Not everyone’s got a sleeve where they can wear their heart / When you don’t have much, you give it all away.”
As a result, these heartfelt vignettes display a lyricist who has finally found her voice. While the first Free Cake For Every Creature record, Talking Quietly of Anything with You, came from a vantage point of a disillusioned twentysomething, The Bluest Star draws from an experience that is uniquely Bennett’s. This confidence carries over into sonic risks, from the electronic flickers that fill out tracks like “Shake It Out” and “Took a Walk” to the unconventional jangle pop guitar chords on songs like “Sideline Skyline” and “Sunday Afternoon.” Fortunately for the project, the soft, muted landscape Bennett so eloquently creates is – while undoubtedly well-defined – easily moldable, and it adjusts to any aesthetic additions with grace.
Katie Bennett seems to become even more comfortable in her own skin as the record goes along. The back half of The Bluest Star is packed with catchy, pointed pop tunes (“In Your Car,” “Tom or Mike or Pat or,” “Hometown Hero”) and listeners can chart the transition from hushed bedroom musings (“Christina’s World,” “Goodbye, Unsilently”) to zippy declarations of poise and tenacity. Bennett’s reserved vocals normally register at barely a whisper, but her barbed vibrato can easily transform into a commanding outcry at the drop of a hat. She is able to skillfully detect what each number calls for, and then deliver in spades.
Anchored by a lo-fi charm that makes for an endlessly replayable record, The Bluest Star handsomely rests at the cusp of summer’s glow, chronicling the bittersweet swirl of emotions that reside in its midst. Even more so than on previous Free Cake For Every Creature efforts, Katie Bennett is opening up, fully aware of the weight of her audience and learning to trust that they are willing to follow along on her emotional journey: “I’m nobody’s mother / And I don’t have to hold it all together.” The project’s sophomore effort is an album of immense depth, sure to please existing fans and even win over a few converts in the process.