Vancouver's Kylie V Captures Grand, Melancholic Feelings on 'Big Blue'

Vancouver's Kylie V Captures Grand, Melancholic Feelings on 'Big Blue'
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Though only 17 years old, Kylie Van Slyke, better known as Kylie V, is already a fixture in Vancouver's music scene. They debuted with the Lotus Eater EP in 2018, a lo-fi collection of sad folk-pop recorded on their iPhone, and have trickled out releases since then, leading up to their first full-length, Big Blue.

Van Slyke's latest is an enormous leap for the young artist. As the title hints, intentionally or not, the feelings on Big Blue are grand and melancholic. The album brims with poetic, twilit imagery: birds hum and swim in levees. Luminous full moons hang over bodies of water. Mountains stand tall like a faraway nearby.

Joined by a superbly skilled ensemble of Vancouver musicians, including multi-instrumentalist Harley Small (who co-produced the record alongside Van Slyke), ethereal avant-chamber violinist Tegan Wahlgren and Sleepy Gonzales members Benito and Cristian Hobson-Dimas, Van Slyke seeks escape throughout Big Blue. With buoyant piano, the glistening "One Fluid Motion" calls to mind Soviet Kitsch-era Regina Spektor, as they sing, "I wanna get drunk / I wanna go to the movies / Wanna take the train / Escape from everything / Visit the ocean / Show you devotion." Their desire to get lost is almost morbid on the slow-building, climactic title track: "Let's just walk into the water / Become one with the blue." The song crashes and recedes like water against a boat's hull. The sound of babbling water completes the illusion.

The title track also demonstrates Van Slyke's patience and optimism. "There's a look in your eyes / Said just take your time / If you want it, you'll find it." It's a good thing they possess these virtues — Big Blue is full of longing. "I dreamed of the day when I could wake up and see your face," they sing on sparkling strummer "Let You Know." And later on "510": "I think about you all the time / I think about you every night." Van Slyke's voicemail vocals at the end of "510" create a sense of distance; their longing becomes that much more palpable.

Van Slyke also longs for the safety and security of mutual support, which they find on the unhurried "Cathedral." With Sydney Thorne on banjo and Peach Pit's Christopher Vanderkooy on slide guitar, the song lingers like the adoring gaze the narrator and their partner cast upon each other. On the drifting "Landlocked Sailboat (The Colours)," Van Slyke vows: "I'll set myself on fire / To keep you warm." 

Big Blue impresses with its musical sophistication and thematic cohesion. For the most part, Van Slyke sings in a hushed but clear voice that's never buried in the mix. With all this composure, the album never comes off melodramatic. When they display wisdom, their sentiments never feel beyond their years. "I'll learn from watching your shadow surround me / That surviving is a form of art," they sing on "A Story If You Want It." And on the title track, they have the revelation, "You can do so much healing with words." Here's to more words, and whatever healing Kylie V needs, in their bright future. (Independent)