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"I know it's wrong, but I can't stop," Katie Von Schleicher groans in "Midsummer." Her album S***** Hits is full of such self-deprecating admissions; it's an album about looking out from inside your own delusions and bad habits, begging yourself to do better. A graphic from the New York songwriter's Bandcamp page defines her album's title, in part, as "good-time songs you can have a bad night with, driving alone." It's apt; the album's 11 tracks are buoyant like sunny '70s pop, filtered through the lens of distorted indie rock and unrelenting self-critique.
S***** Hits follows Bleaksploitation, Von Schleicher's first self-produced and self-engineered effort. That cassette sprang from her internship at Ba Da Bing Records, after the label's owner suggested that she make a tape for Ba Da Bing to release. In response, Von Schleicher pulled a move most interns can only dream of: wildly surpassing her boss's expectations with an impressive release crammed full of hazy pop that skews dark and heavy. S***** Hits is Von Schleicher's debut full-length and retains Bleaksploitation's homemade feel, but is a bit more adventurous in its sound; it's still dense, but offers more room to breathe.
In "Midsummer," Von Schleicher's voice evokes the twangy power of Angel Olsen and the aching warmth of Sharon Van Etten. Her outlook is persistently bleak but charming — not quite pathetic, but verging on desperation, as she sings about promising better behavior and crying to good songs. S***** Hits was recorded on a tape machine at Von Schleicher's childhood home; the technique lends atmospheric hiss and fuzz beneath the track's near-chaotic instrumentation.
"'Midsummer' is about recognizing how toxic you might be for another person, beginning to empathize with what effect your behavior has on them," Von Schleicher writes in an email to NPR. "It's contrite, but the perspective is persistently selfish, self-indulgent, too. In contrast, I had a really happy time arranging and recording this song; it's engrossing to sing, jubilant and elemental." The song's layered production and Von Schleicher's fierce voice leave her sounding both frighteningly isolated and trapped in a cacophony of selves, as if to reinforce the song's message of moral confusion.
S***** Hits comes out July 28 on Ba Da Bing Records.