It’s not exactly the world's most well-kept secret that I’m a fan of Kat Robichaud, the husky-voiced rocker who competed on Team Cee-Lo on Season 5 of The Voice. While I can’t pretend my unadulterated adoration of Amanda Palmer didn’t help steer my attention away from other top performers that season (ahem, James Wolpert) and over to Robichaud's side instead, I maintain that her performance of AWOLNATION’s “Sail” is still one of the best in the history of The Voice. Despite that powerful performance and her incomparable stage presence, she only made it to the top ten — which is actually for the best. Because her off-the-wall, Kickstarter-backed, feminist rock opera entitled Kat Robichaud and The Darling Misfits is about as un-Voice-like as an album can get. And that's exactly what makes it killer.
Confession: the road to embracing Kat Robichaud and The Darling Misfits is rocky. I cannot emphasize how much I love Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls; it's to the point of an inherent bias. So, when I played the first track on Robichaud's new album, “The Elephant Song,” and heard the familiar clanging of the piano keys, the sharply and precisely pronounced syllables, and the complicated, confessional lyrics, I felt right at home. In fact, I made a note to self to re-listen to Who Killed Amanda Palmer. That’s when I started to wonder about this new album. It’s not Kat Robichaud and The Darling Misfits Cover Their Favorite Artists. Is this going to work?
The answer, in a nutshell, is yes. It works. It works because Robichaud grows over the course of the album into her own artist. Which makes complete sense because, from start to finish, this album is a bona-fide rock opera with a clear story of becoming. Becoming a proud misfit, becoming a confident, self-assured woman, becoming an independent artist with a distinct voice and sound. “Definition of Pretty,” the jazzy uptempo number dedicated to lambasting the beauty industrial complex and damaging beauty standards, is equal parts nightclub cabaret and rage-fueled protest song. Robichaud effortlessly slides from chanteuse to screaming rocker from verse to verse and the effect is jarring and refreshingly different. She’s taking her influences and creating something new. New and very weird.
“Apple Pie and A Knife,” the next song after “Definition of Pretty” is exactly that: new and very weird. Backed by frenetic percussion, Robichaud spits about a hundred words a minute as she rages against preconceived notions of her performance of femininity. In a surprisingly visual turn, she rasps “you want the apple pie, but I’m a knife too hard to swallow.” Still, the prize for best line goes to “you call me a whore because I’m not a man” which sums up a lot of the frustration on the album. For Robichaud, the goal seems to be very simple: look at her, listen to her, but don’t judge her based on a subjective take of womanhood.
With that said, it’s important to note that Robichaud doesn’t just
make “feminist political statements” on this record. She takes the time to experiment and have fun. For example, “Somebody Call the Doctor,” the ear-wormiest of the
tracks, is a funny, flippant ode to Doctor
Who. The music video speaks to her sense of humor and self-aware (but
nevertheless proud) nerdiness.
Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits proves there is artistic life after The Voice that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the show. We know about Kat Robichaud because of a reality singing competition, but we should remember her for taking on a very ambitious concept and making it into a funny, dark, and personal album. Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits comes out on January 27. The album is available on ITunes and Amazon.