Kate Miller-Heidke is a classically trained singer/songwriter hailing from Brisbane, Australia. That said, she’s been making a career for herself as an alt pop artist for the past fourteen years or so now. And while she’s had her share of major label record deals, at this point in her career she is proudly independent. Her new album, O Vertigo!, was funded via PledgeMusic where she broke Australian crowd-funding records: in just three days, she reached the target set for the album and continued to receive more crowd funding. Some of the money she raised was used for donations towards the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
O Vertigo! is Kate’s fourth proper solo LP, although she also released an album with a band she fronted called Fatty Gets a Stylist in 2011; the album was released as her third solo album here in the States with the title Liberty Bell.
“I had a dream / Then the dream had a dream / And then the dream had me,” begins O Vertigo’s opening track, “Offer it Up.” It’s a slice of frenetic and infectious pop unlike anything else you’ll hear this year, thanks to Kate’s frequent high-pitched, Opera-style vocal acrobatics. Not that the song relies on them to hit a home run. Not with its slamming beats, glorious piano and swirling melody, which Kate’s voice follows perfectly, making it seem effortless.
The heavy beats continue on “Yours Was The Body,” a delicious mid-tempo tune with spell-binding vocals that calls to mind the early work of Kate’s fellow Aussie pop songstress Sarah Blasko. The blissed-out number also has an air of Kate’s quirky 2008 effort Curiouser. Although it’s clearly structured perfectly, right down to more of astounding Kate’s vocal feats, the song has a very whimsical vibe that gently carves its way into your heart and head simultaneously. And then the title track, “O Vertigo!,” feels even more mischievous with lots of quasi-opera vocals to elevate your spirits.
Kate collaborates with Passenger on “Share Your Air,” which features synth that instantly calls to mind Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is.” The first few times you listen to it, you’ll likely hear the Foreigner track playing in your head, making it difficult to appreciate Kate’s song, but if you continue listening to it, eventually that sensation goes away and you’re left with a precious ballad that comes over one like a warm blanket on a cold night.
Halfway through the album comes “Rock This Baby To Sleep,” a gorgeous song that would be acapella if it wasn’t for the light and fluffy synth that adds extra color to Kate’s blooming voice. Several layers of Kate’s vocals interplaying with each other result in some tender harmonies here.
Later, “Lose My Shit” reminds one that Kate’s discography includes a song called “Are You Fucking Kidding Me.” “Have some consideration / Where’s your sense of proportion? / Just scale it in a bit for fuck’s sake,” she sings with an air of vulnerability about her voice, as though she’s dancing toward fight or flight mode. It would seem the song is about two things, feeling anxious around the object of your affection and loving someone in spite of their annoying flaws.
Another highlight is the duet “Ghost” featuring Megan Washington which plays like a delicate ballad during the verses only to erupt with sonorous, in-your-face beats during the punchy chorus. “Ghost with a pulse, be gone / I’m saying the words / Ghost with a pulse, gone,” they sing, harmonizing brilliantly.
Listening to O Vertigo! with all of its sugar and spice and constant changes of direction, it occurs to one that it’s just a further extension of Kate’s own unique style, a distinct flavor that has always been present in her music regardless of what major label was funding her albums. The point being that listening to this “independent” version of Kate serves to make one aware of the fact that she’s actually been an indie darling all along. Which, of course, only serves to make her all the more lovable.