At this point, this blog serves as an unofficial P.R. wing for Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Her 2017 album, The Kid, was my favorite album of the last decade and its predecessor, Ears, ended up in my top 50 also. I’ve long been resistant of using hyperbolic praise for musicians, but it’s not like any of this matters, so screw it: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is a genius, and her new single, “Expanding Electricity,” is further proof of that claim.
The timing on this single couldn’t have been better: the virus sweeping the world is the most terrifying thing that has happened in my lifetime (it scares me more than 9/11 did, I think), and I’ve been living in isolation for the last week, though that isn’t necessarily a drastic shift from my usual routine. This song serves as a reminder that good things still exist in the world, and will hopefully exist after this is over. Inspired by electricity and the body, Smith’s latest runs over 10 minutes, with multiple distinct movements, similar to the closer on Ears, “Existence in the Unfurling.” This feels like her densest song so far, as its packed with strings, synths, and vibraphone, while also continuing to showcase her increasing confidence as a vocalist. The sheer volume of stuff going on remains a key draw to Smith’s music; every second over this entire long run time is packed with the joy of discovery and wonder.
Smith’s unbounded positivity and wide-eyed view of the world is so uncynical that I find it sort of jarring — like, how can anyone see what is happening out there and still make music that contains this much hope. A critic could say it is rooted in privilege and naivete, but even if that’s the case, the sounds she makes are so spellbinding and such an authentic translation of Smith’s personality into music. Without any context from the album to draw from, it is hard to say how this single stacks up to The Kid, which had a narrative thrust that added layers of meaning to her synth experimentations, which could otherwise just feel like random blippity-bloopity sounds. So rather than compare, for the time being I’m content to just absorb this song, with all of its little details and quirks. Even if this doesn’t end up being album of the decade material, Smith’s music will continue to serve as a much-needed light in the darkness.