If Pearson’s extracurricular activities in recent months have shown that she can dip a toe into a multitude of genres -providing guest vocals on Orlando Weeks’ recent album Hop Up; popping up with Yard Act for a collaboration at End of the Road festival; singing on trad-folk collective Broadside Hacks’ 2021 project Songs Without Authors - then second album Sound of the Morning takes that spirit and runs with it. It’s still Katy J Pearson (read: effortlessly charming, full of heart and helmed by that inimitable vocal), but it’s Katy J Pearson pushing herself musically and lyrically into new waters. Written and recorded in late 2021 after a self-prescribed period of down time spent walking, going on daily cold water swims and “just chillaxing massively”, even the credits on Sound of the Morning profess a new thirst for experimentation from the singer. Joining Return producer Ali Chant on desk duties this time was Speedy Wunderground head honcho Dan Carey, who worked with Pearson on some of the album’s grittier tracks.
The slithering bass riff that underpins ‘Alligator’, offsetting its cathartic chorus is a case in point. “I was in such a bad mood that day because I’d had this huge E.ON bill to pay which was £500. I was on the phone to my dad, like, ‘Dad! I’ve fucked it!’” she recalls. “I walked into the studio and just burst into tears, and Dan was like, ‘Let’s just write a song’. We started writing this really jangly thing and that became the start of ‘Alligator’.”Perhaps the biggest surprise, meanwhile, comes in the tense, Carey-produced ‘Confession’. Written after a conversation with her mum sparked by the #MeToo movement, it’s an anxious rattle of a song that’s both abstract and painfully timeless. Yes, in this specific instance, “it was a very long time ago when it happened”, but as the song’s repetition seems to suggest, it was happening then, and it’s happening now and it will probably keep on happening. “When I listen to that song, it’s abstract but it feels very personal and strong to me and hopefully to the women around me. I think that song has so much anxiety and tension in it because every day, women are faced with triggering aspects of things that have happened to us -especially in music, I’ll be going to a gig and there’ll be some fucking creep there,” she explains. “It’s completely universal for so many of us, and I’m glad I’ve got a song that represents that because, as I’m getting older as a person and as a woman, I want to sing about this because I’m fucking angry. It’s nice to have an angry and anunnerving song on my album.”That Pearson decides to follow such a dark sonic moment with the sparse, traditional folk lilt of ‘The Hour’ (penned in its stripped back form, she chuckles, because the acrylic nails she was wearing at the time didn’t allow for anything more complex) is typical of Sound of the Morning. It’s an album that’s as comfortable revelling in the more laid-back, Real Estate-esque melodies of lead single ‘Talk Over Town’ -a track that attempts to make sense of her recent experiences, of “being Katy from Gloucester, but then being Katy J Pearson who’s this buzzy new artist” -as it is basking in the American indie pop of ‘Float’, penned with longtime pal Ollie Wilde of Pet Shimmers, or experimenting with the buoyant brass of ‘Howl’, in which Orlando repays the favour with a vocal guest spot.
The record ends with a cover of ‘Willow’s Song’ by Paul Giovanni, taken from the 1973 soundtrack of The Wicker Man. Reinterpreted with a krautrock inflection, it might not have been from her pen but it’s a strangely appropriate way to summarise Katy J Pearson’s appeal: someone who takes classic, timeless ideas and spins them into new forms. It also leaves the door tantalisingly open for what’s to come -as she says herself, “I think it’s really nice to finish the album on something that isn’t mine but is still this ending moment -it’s like it’s saying, ‘What is she going to do next?