- 24 Oct 19
The name Kitt Philippa has been on everyone’s lips for some time now. From winning the NI Music Prize back in 2018 with their breakthrough single ‘Human’, to wowing people at Other Voices – to the extent that Paragon Records insisted on throwing weight behind their debut album – Kitt’s short journey has involved an incredible arc.
Kitt was raised in a classical music environment, and performed original music live on stage with the Ulster Orchestra back when they were 21. This classical strain is the bedrock of their debut album. Many of the songs orchestrate a balance between Kitt’s piano progressions, their ethereal – yet gut-punching – vocals, and a beautiful swell of strings. ‘Lion’ is possibly the most rousing example; a song about courage in the face of adversity, it rings out as if performed in front of a packed music hall.
The other side of the album is more experimental. ‘Human’ and ‘You’ have that sparse trip-hop sheen that made London Grammar household names. But on the jazzy, soulful ‘Fahrenheit’ – where delayed and distorted vocals create a haunting hall-of-mirrors effect – Kitt is doing something which sounds more interesting than anything the London trio have ever attempted.
Throughout, Human is poised between control and vulnerability, clarity and ambiguity. Kitt is evidently assured in their craft, but each song also has a heart-on-sleeve spontaneity, exemplified most clearly in the gospel chants of “Hallelujah” at the end of ‘Moth’. Lyrically, these dichotomies are also apparent, and are condensed most succinctly in ‘Grace’, with the lines: “What am I?/ Not quite playwright/ Not quite player”. Elsewhere, the singer has the confidence to belt out the refrain “Let me go, let me go, let me go” at the end of that track, before qualifying it, vulnerably, with “But be by my side.”
Crucially, there aren’t enough superlatives for Kitt’s voice. It goes for the tear ducts. It seems to say everything about human emotion, mental health, identity and self-perception, in a stunningly direct lilt that will linger with people long after they hear it. Album of the year material, no bones about it.