The first words out of Kathryn Pallakoff's mouth are “It's hard down in this hole” and I know it's going to be a long ride because listening to the voice I would have expected “The sun will come out tomorrow,” Pallakoff sounding as much disgruntled young teen as the pop chanteuse I envisioned after seeing the album jacket which evokes Cyndi Lauper or Katy Perry in my addled mind. “Said the rabbit to the toad,” the song continues. “It ain't nothing like it seems/Like the rabbit in your dreams/Yeah, I know just what you mean...” Very McCartney-esque, don't you think?
But it is not McCartney, instead the beginning of a very odd but intriguing presentation of Pallakoff's Theater of the Mind, if I may be allowed to call it that. The first volley of an Alice In Wonderland meets Annie compromise, and before you stop reading, please consider. The voice has a Broadway musical appeal, a little girl's innocence, which I thought might dissipate as the album progressed. So I waited as I listened, slowly becoming aware that I was being sucked into Wonderland without even realizing.
It isn't all rabbits and toads but it IS all emotion--- word-picture emotion. The producer of the album kept telling me to listen to “Unicorn Scars.” This is the one. This one will show you what she has done. By the time he was promoting that one tune, though, I had been through the album front-to-back a few times. “Unicorn Scars” is a good tune, I have to admit, but it is one tune in a series of them. Pallakoff could produce this live on stage in a Broadway setting, like I said, and it would work. She wouldn't need much—- a small band (the one on the album would do very nicely), but only on four or five tracks, an acoustic guitar or two on the rest.
Hers is not a beautiful voice I have to say, but she more than makes up for it in the way it is used. There is more angst in it than many teens have in theirs. Songs like “Psyche and Eros” ride the fence between song and song-thoughts and the voice is crucial but incidental at the same time. And going from that space to the beautifully sung “Maybe” is a leap you eventually come to expect and even desire. For they are two very different songs in juxtaposition for a reason. From “You're the American astronaut/You can shoot me to the moon” to “Maybe I'm water/Maybe I'm dirt.” If that isn't angst, I don't know what is.
From the very modern folk core of “Big Bang” to the electric rock 'n' roll of “American Astronaut,” Ms. Pallakoff covers a wide range but keeps everything in sync with her musical vision. I know this isn't something I normally would embrace, but there is a very intriguing aspect to both the music and Ms. Pallakoff herself. There is something ticking beneath the surface. Something I cannot quite wrap my fingers or ears around.
Just so you know, Kathryn Pallakoff has spent a bit of time on the stage (or would it be The Stage?). It was my one question. A question I did not have to ask. I knew. I knew from the first lines of “Hard Down In This Hole.”
A little tip. When you sit down for your first listen, wipe out any preconceptions you might have. Not only will it allow you to hear what is there, it might just allow you to understand,as well. And understanding, in this case, is key.