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Cactus Club will welcome Katy Kirby this August

Tonje Thilesen

About a month ago, Katy Kirby — who released the very good Blue Raspberry in February — added a couple dates to her summer plans, including an Aug. 1 visit to Milwaukee’s Cactus Club. The announcement escaped our notice then, having come right on the heels of her opening gig with The Mountain Goats at Turner Hall, but we’ll attempt to rectify that now by cluing you into this opportunity to see an artist on the rise.

The Nashville-based singer-songwriter earned some nice attention in 2021 for debut album Cool Dry Place, which introduced us to her deft combination of wordplay and cheery folk-pop. This year’s sophomore effort built on the foundation of its predecessor by leaning a bit more into the pop side of her sound for songs that started as a writing experiment but became an actual life experience.

“I started writing Blue Raspberry, and I was thinking about, ‘If I was in love with a woman, what would I love about her? Especially if she was someone that I couldn’t touch, but that I was pining for. What would I be caught on?’” Kirby explained in notes about the album.

“And I thought that I would probably be particularly charmed by the choices she made on how to look after she woke up in the morning. I thought about tackiness and the ways that’s a dirty word. That’s where the title comes from — loving someone for those choices, for the artificiality."

She went on to recount how she started writing the album about a month before exploring those feelings in her personal life, eventually entering into her first queer relationship. As Pitchfork’s Emma Madden put it, "The finished album is a thoroughly lived-in document of a complicated romance: no longer genre exercise in yearning but a philosophical inquiry into it.”

An accurate analysis but one that makes the project sound heavier than it comes across when you put it in your ears. Its 11 tracks fly by without being forgettable and stand up to repeat listens, thanks in part to orchestral elements Kirby introduced on her second album.

While she won’t be able to squeeze a string section into Cactus Club’s cozy confines, everything else she’ll bring to Bay View will make for a solid show from an artist who seems on her way to big things. Tickets for Kirby’s Aug. 1 performance are on sale now.