Katie Haverly’s new album ‘Pluto’ is a chasm of beautifully and expertly crafted melodies, musical anomalies, and a sheer display of raw talent that will leave you awestruck!
I have to admit that I knew I was in for quite a treat when I decided to review Katie Haverly’s newest musical work, but I did not anticipate how sonically dense and captivating the power of ‘Pluto’ would be.
This album, which was co-produced by Gabriel Sullivan, asserts a new level of musical prowess for Haverly not only within her own abilities, but also her collaborative talents too.
It all begins with ‘Ruins’. The acoustic guitar introduces you to a light groove, before Winston Watson’s drum and Thoger Lund’s stand up bass whisk you into a rhythmic trance. The decoration of muted acoustic and electric lead lines is just brilliant and is quite like the production quality of Andrew Bird’s newest album ‘Are You Serious’. This song is a great performance with hi-fi preamp processing, no doubt. Haverly’s voice moves throughout this track like a Sade Adu of the Southwest.
‘Something’ is a powerful driving interplay of Haverly’s lyrical story about her experience with the chemistry of a relationship. The intro and outro of this track are particularly lo-fi static transitions that accentuate the variation of style on this album.
‘Mess’ awakened me as one of the most poignant tracks on this album. The opening line, is easily one that will stick with you. Katie says, “When we all say we’re sorry / A good piece from now / When we have all the exhibits from the artists, that will break it all down / And the critics will argue about the merits of how / we portrayed all the ways we let them all down”. The slide work by Connor Gallaher shines and gleams with such a grand soul as Katie sings her heart out. It is one of those songs you just can’t do anything else but listen. It’s pure songwriting gold!
The growling guitars set the stage for ‘Lucid’. The tom hook here is very catchy, and the song twists and turns your ears inside out. The arrangement is a combination of pop, experimental, and cinematic dissonance. This is definitely where the production of Gabriel Sullivan starts to creep in. The song is quite an anomaly.
‘Cowboy’ is a beautiful song with more brilliant lines from Haverly. My favorite one here is “My cowboy / can’t find his rope / but he ties me up in knots / with the flowers he grows”. The ballad is a daze that’s mesmerizing and sentimental. Katie vocally dances through the piece like a songbird to the perfect compliment to each guitar build and decay. It’s a natural high to experience.
As we jump into ‘Water’ the album approaches a unique breaking point. The dissonance, the rhythm, and the melody all seems to intertwine in a very ordinary and original type of sound. It’s almost hard to categorize. Haverly’s piano riff builds into an epic breakdown that is powerful, sensual, and chaotically magical. Every time I hear a new song on this album, it’s getting harder to pick a favorite.
‘Titanic’ brings the tempo back up with cascading guitar lines, pulse driven bass, and minimal but solid pocket playing on the drums. This song is probably what music critics might say is the most accessible and catchy upon a first listen, but I just see it as another great hit from this diverse album.
‘Wreckage’ is a haunting and electrifying song and arrangement. When the band comes in by the 2nd verse (or 2nd stanza of the first verse) you can feel the downbeat drop in your body as the band sways you in. The backing vocal parts grip you, and the trembling percussion is allusive to the sounds of a desert or southwest audio backdrop.
‘Pyre’ is a statement on the political, social, and environmental structures of human existence in society. It also speaks for a ‘call to action’, and captures a neo-soul vibe that lyrically reminds me of Erykah Badu. It has an eccentric song structure that is the perfect handoff to the next track.
The surreal piano takes us in slowly and softly, and you feel like you are just sailing through the stars. That’s what ‘Pluto’ feels like. Katie speaks a lot to a “mother” here that I actually imagined as both a person and the earth. In this piece Haverly’s developed skill in wordplay, her tonal and atonal mastery, and the charm of the instruments shine more gorgeously than anywhere else on the record.
‘Much’ is a Chris Stapleton type of ballad. It’s got the drawl of the west mixed with the modulating talents of Haverly. Connor Gallaher also returns with another excellent melodic compliment to the band on his now iconic slide guitar voice. The song feels like love, a really good love.
‘Better’ is all Katie and her piano. It’s a powerful live performance, and you can feel every breath and movement like she is singing right to you. It’s quite sublime, and is the perfect finale to this scintillating production. This last piece almost disappears with an avant-garde lack of resolution, so I cued up the first track once more, and saw that the album was almost designed to repeat. I’m not sure if that was the plan, but the symmetry is spot on.
Katie Haverly’s new album ‘Pluto’ is a bold tapestry in the Arizona music scene that stands alone in it’s creativity and originality. The production is somehow expertly nuanced while contrastingly brazen throughout the journey and the talents of Gabriel Sullivan, Winston Watson, Thoger Lund, and Ben Nisbet compliment Haverly perfectly.
This is an album will inspire musicians and artists of all walks of life, and will surprise you again and again like a great novel. Bravo Katie Haverly, ‘Pluto’ is a jewel.
I’ll leave you with a chilling and marvelous cover of Bruce Springsteen from Katie Haverly’s recent solo performance from EXO Bar!
Article written by: Jacob Acosta
Jacob is a writer, producer, musician, and teacher who lives in Tucson, AZ. He has been a music professional in film, advertising, and performance for 14 years. Connect with him at: