It often takes artists an entire career to figure out exactly what they want to sound like. Debut albums, generally speaking, are tentative; proof-of-concepts for the music yet to come. So when an artist releases a debut that’s as assured of itself as Katie Burden’s Strange Moon, it deserves a listen.

Burden, a Colorado native now based out of L.A., has crafted an atmospheric sound that almost hypnotizes the listener. It’s tough to describe, as well; to me, it was reminiscent of Lana Del Rey fronting Queens of the Stone Age. There are traces of Del Ray’s passive, listless vocals in Burden’s delivery, which can border on sing-talking without ever quite losing their melody. It’s almost like chanting, which goes a long way in amplifying the spacey experience of the album.

Musically, Strange Moon is built around a pervasive fuzzy stomp, albeit one that sounds as if it were recorded in a black hole somewhere on the far edges of the universe. Space rock is a tough genre to pull off — for example, Angels & Airwaves, a band comprised of wholly capable veteran musicians, whose music ranges in quality from “very good” to “unlistenable.” But Burden plays it tightly, managing to create an ethereal backing track while never straying too far into the outer reaches. “Run for Your Life” is a great example of this — it’s the kind of song you’d expect to hear in the climax of Hollywood’s next sci-fi blockbuster.

However, as with any debut album, there are missteps. Lyrically, Burden has a tendency to go for abstract, David Lynchian imagery that often just reads as pretension. But this can be forgiven, seeing as Burden is at such an early point in her career. A few mistakes here and there are expected, and the mistakes here are few and far between.

With Strange Moon, Katie Burden has made a strong statement for a lasting career in music. It’s an impossibly assured record, so clear in what it’s trying to do that any mistakes along the way could be chalked up to rookie mistakes. Burden knows exactly what she wants to do; all that’s left is to work the kinks out.

Katie Burden: Strange Moon
Playlist Picks: “Run for Your Life,” “My Kind,” “Too Good for Love”
Fighting the sudden urge to rewatch Event Horizon90%
Queen of the Space Age100%
This is the music NASA should transmit to the outer reaches85%

About The Author

Tom Whitcomb is a writer whose work has appeared in The A.V. Club and Isthmus. He’s one of the few Madison residents who did not go to college there (DePaul, what up). Also, Tom loves Blink-182.