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Hey V Kay, Gut Wrenching

Album Review

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Hey V Kay, the slightly cumbersome stage name of Boise musician Karen Havey, debuted as a live act over the summer after dropping some preview recordings online in December 2011.

Those recordings were recently renamed, remastered and released as a physical album, Gut Wrenching. In a sentence, it's one of the better albums released by a Boise band in 2012.

The 14 tracks on Gut Wrenching are moody and electronic, with roots in the lower tech, mid '90s electronic sound paired with the classic jilted songstress approach to composition.

"You say you didn't want to be just a souvenir," Kay sings on the album's single, "Souvenir."

"You said my songs are too depressing, can't I write you something else," she sings on "Someone Else."

"You're miles away, it feels the same," she sings on "Catherine."

Havey tagged it "sad bastard music" on Bandcamp, but it could also be tagged "meaningful songwriting."

A listen to the instrumental tracks on Gut Wrenching will reveal shades of Violator-era Depeche Mode and Seattle keytar wizard Anna Oxygen. Parts of the album might even pass for a less sparse version of The XX, all minor-key melodies and emotionally downwardly spiraling beats.

But a lot of what makes the tunes on Gut Wrenching work is Havey's voice, a husky whisper that makes every song feel like a dark confession, a siren's lure into the shadows of Planet Grayscale.

If there is a downside to Gut Wrenching, of the 14 songs, there are precious few that stick with a listener as hooks. However, the chilling vibe that runs throughout may get into your bones.

With good production, songwriting and delivery, Gut Wrenching is a solid album from start to finish and should be enough to establish Hey V Kay as one of Boise's leading electronic artists and most compelling young producers.

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